You are so fortunate
being able to put much effort of body, speech and mind into seeking inner reality,
your true nature. When you check how you have spent most of your life, you can
see how fortunate you are having the chance to make this search even once. So
I'm not just making it up, "Oh, you're so good," trying to make you feel proud. It's true. However, to really discover that all human problems, physical and mental, come from attachment, is not an easy job. It takes much time.
For example, if you're having difficulty at a meditation course, you might start thinking about home: your warm house, your comfortable bed, chocolate cake. You remember all these nice things. Then your ego and attachment get to work, "Oh, I don't know about this course. I'd be better off at home. At least there I know I can enjoy myself." But we all know what's going to happen when you get there. Still, attachment follows your ego's view, "My bed is so good, I'll be so comfortable back home; my family is there, I can relax and do whatever I feel like, I'll be free. Here I'm not free and I have to try to be serious. Anyway, my serious mind doesn't seem to be functioning, so I might as well leave." Your dualistic attachment kicks in, telling you so much stuff, convincing you until you say, "Yes, yes, yes" and leave.
So then you get home, and you're sitting in your room, and you check up. How silly! Nothing's new. There's no place on earth where you're guaranteed to find satisfactory enjoyment. Don't think Tibet must be a fantastic place, a paradise where everything is pleasure. Never! Never! Since dissatisfaction and attachment inevitably come with this body and mind, your samsaric mandala of dissatisfaction accompanies you wherever you go. Even if you leave your own country and go to a cave in the mountains, attachment comes along. You can't leave it back home.
Trying to face your problems is far more worthwhile than trying to run away from them without understanding their root. You've been that way before; it's not a new trip. It's the same old trip. You go, you change, you go, you change, on and on like that. In this life alone you've taken so many attachment tops.
With effort, everything is possible. In order to attain the realization of indestructible, everlasting peace, you have to have an indestructible mind for training. Realizations don't come without your training your mind the right way. First you have to make the determination, "For such a long time I have been servant to the two mental departments of attachment and ego, trying to please them. But in fact, they are my greatest enemy, the root of all my problems, the destroyers of my peace and enjoyment." You have to understand how these two minds occupy and control your internal world.
According to Lord Buddha's teachings, as long as you don't realize that your real enemy is within you, you will never recognize that the mind of attachment is the root of all the problems your body and mind experience. All your worries, your depression, everything comes from that. Until you do recognize that, even though you might occasionally have an hour's good concentration, it never lasts. If, however, you do see the psychological origin of your problems and understand the nature of attachment and how it works to cause aggression, desire and hatred, your mind becomes very powerful.
When you're in a peaceful environment, you think, "Oh, I'm so peaceful, my meditation is so good, I have such good realizations." But when you're out shopping in the street or in a supermarket and people bump into you, you freak out; because you're not sitting in meditation but walking around, your mind is completely uncontrolled. If, however, if you understand the psychology of attachment and how it lies at the root of your various reactions, you will not freak out easily and will really be able to control your mind, no matter where you go or who you're with.
This is not just some philosophical theory, either. It is really true, based on living experience. In fact, not only Buddhism, but all religions recognize the shortcomings of attachment. Even worldly people talk about its drawbacks. But, you know, even though we say the words, "Attachment this, attachment that," we don't really recognize it as the biggest problem on earth.
Therefore, what I'm saying is, it would be wonderful if you could recognize that your own attachment is the cause of every single problem that you experience. Problems with your husband, wife, children, society, authorities, everybody; having a bad reputation; your friends not liking you; people talking badly about you; your hating your teacher, your lama or your priest; all this truly comes from your own attachment. You really check up.
We Westerners always have to blame something external when things go wrong. "I'm not happy, so I'd better change this." We're always trying to change the world around us instead of recognizing that it's our own attachment that we have to change.
Just take a simple example. When someone hurts you by telling you that you're greedy, although you blame the person for how you feel, the hurt actually comes from your attachment. First of all, people, perhaps even your parents or your spouse, don't like your attachment-driven behavior, so they complain, "Oh, you're so greedy," hurting your ego. And then, instead of accepting their pointing out your selfish behavior, your attachment to always being right, perfect, causes you angrily to reject what they say. The fact that your ego, your wrong-conception mind, cannot accept criticism is itself a big problem: your ego wants you to be right all the time, and your attachment creates its own philosophy of never listening to advice, no matter who gives it, closing off your mind. It is very important that you learn to deal with these problems in the best possible way.
Brief Overview of the Lam Dre
By His Holiness Sakya Trizin
Virupa was born in a royal family and from a very young age had very special qualities. Seeing
that all samsara was suffering, he renounced his station, became a monk and entered the great
monastery of Nalanda. He began by studying the Sutrayana teachings and also received and
practiced Mantrayana teachings. He became so renowned for his learning that after the passing
away of his teacher, he succeeded him as the abbot of Nalanda monastery. During the day he
gave Mahayana teachings to the monks, taught debate, and composed texts. In secret, however,
he undertook Mantrayana practices for a very long period of time. Yet, after practicing in
this way for a very long period of time, he experienced no significant signs of progress or
accomplishment. Virupa thought that perhaps he did not have the karmic connection with the
tantric practice, and so decided to devote his efforts full-time to giving Mahayana teachings.
After making this decision, on that very night, he experienced a vision of Vajra Nairatmya.
Vajra Nairatmya said to him: "What you have decided is wrong. I am your karmic link deity
and you must continue your vajrayana practices." So because of this vision, he continued
his secret practices. Shortly afterward in his pure vision, he saw the full mandala of
Vajrayogini and received the empowerment of the deity Hevajra. Every night for six nights,
one after another, he attained great realizations. On the first night he attained the great
realization of the first bhumi, realizing the ultimate truth. On the second night and on each
night after it, he obtained one bhumi or one stage of the bodhisattva path, up to the sixth
bhumi. He then became a great mahasiddha, left the monastery, performed many great
miracles, and subdued those on the wrong path. Many benefitted just by hearing his name,
and he did great service to the Buddhadharma.
Virupa had many general followers as well as Mahayana followers, but Krishnapa and
Dombipa were the two main followers of his esoteric, pith instruction. For the benefit of
Krishnapa, he gave the teaching known as "Vajra Words." This very short teaching contains
the essence of all the Tripitaka and Vajrayana. In the same way that butter is refined from
milk, the Vajra Words are the most important essence of the Buddha's sutric and tantric
teachings in the form of pith instruction. This teaching then passed to his close disciple
Krishnapa, who gave it to his disciples. In this way it was passed on to five great Indian
gurus. The fifth of these gurus was the Gayadhara who came to Tibet several times and
gave this teaching to the great translator Drogmi Lotsawa. Drogmi Lotsawa was the first
Tibetan to receive the Lam Dre teaching. He was a great master who had many male and
female disciples who had very great realizations. Drogmi Lotsawa transmitted the general
tantra explanations and the pith instructions to his disciples separately. He would not give
the general tantric explanations to the disciples who were listening for the pith instructions,
and he would not give pith instructions to those who were listening for the general
teachings. Among his disciples who received the most important teachings was Seton
Kunrik. Seton Kunrik received the Lam Dre teachings, attained high realizations, and gave
the teachings to Zhangton Chobar. Zhangton Chobar was a kind of hidden yogi: to the
general public he was an ordinary person working in other people's fields. He promised to
work in many fields, and emanated his body to many places. Zhangton Chobar gave the
teaching to the great lama Sakyapa, who was born of the Khon race.
The Lam Dre Lineage
The Khon lineage is believed to be directly descended from celestial beings dwelling in the
rupadhatu. When the time was ripe, they felt it was necessary to descend into the human
realms. Three brothers descended from the heavenly realms to the high mountains of Tibet.
One of them settled in Tibet. The first name of this lineage is known as the Clear Light race.
Later they mixed with the rakshas, which were the local spirits. When this mixture took place,
there was some disagreement between the perfect wisdom and ignorance. At that time the
name "Khon" was given, and both the name and lineage have continued to the present day.
Members of the Khon lineage were formerly Bon practitioners. Later on, Khon Nagarakshita
was a direct disciple of Padmasmbhava. Guru Padmasmbhava gave him many teachings - and
in fact, he was one of the first Tibetans to receive full Buddhist bhiksu ordination. He was one
of seven Tibetans ordained as a trial to see if the Tibetans could keep the Buddhist monastic
ordination. So, Khon Nagarakshita's monastic ordination was the beginning of a very auspicious
Buddhist monastic tradition. In any case, he was a very great disciple of Guru Padmasambhava,
and for many generations, the descendants were great Nyingmapa practitioners. During Khon
Konchog Gyalpo's time, they felt it was necessary to start a separate school, so they concealed
all the ancient teachings and started the Sakya order. The first monastery was built in 1073 by
Khon Konchog Gyalpo who was the father of the great Lama Sakyapa, Kunga Nyingpo.
Khon Konchog Gyalpo was a disciple of Drogmi Lotsawa and received the tantric teachings
from him. However, Lama Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo received the Hevajra tantra teachings
directly from his father; but received the pith instruction from Zhangton Chobar. At first
there was some hesitation on the part of Zhangton Chobar, but later when he found out that
Kunga Nyingpo was the son of his dharma brother, Khon Gyalpo, he was more eager to
give the Lam Dre pith instructions. When he gave them to Lama Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo,
he did so with the admonition that he should not disclose even the name of the teaching to
anybody for eighteen years. The condition was that after eighteen years, Lama Sakyapa
would be free to write the teachings down or give them to his disciples, because by then, he
would be the 'owner' of this great teaching. So for eighteen years Sachen Kunga Nyingpo
didn't mention the name of 'Lam Dre' to anybody and kept it completely secret. During this
time he studied and mastered the t eachings. Lama Sakyapa was an emanation of both
Manjushri and Avalokitesvara, a manifestation of all the Buddha's wisdom and compassion
combined. In reality he was already a fully enlightened being, but from our ordinary
perception, he appeared in human form and followed the path.
At one point during these eighteen years he became ill and actually forgot many of the
teachings, because at that time there was yet no written text. Because it was a strictly oral
teaching he was very worried because his guru had already passed away. At that time,
tantra was practiced secretly in the high mountains or in the great forests; it was not
commonly given. He thought that even if he went to India it would be very difficult to find
such a teaching. So he prayed, and in a dream, the guru Zhangton Chobar, came to him and
gave teachings. In this way Kunga Nyingpo remembered a lot of what he had forgotten. A
second time after praying in his meditation cell the Guru Zhangton Chobar came and gave
teachings, and he was able to remember the greatest part of the teachings. A third time after
praying, the great mahasiddha, the guru Virupa, founder of Lam Dre teaching who received
the teaching directly from the deity, appeared in the Sakya mountains.
In the vision, the huge mountain behind Virupa was covered with his body: he said 'this
earth belongs to me' and then gave the full Lam Dre teaching and many other pith
instructions to Kunga Nyingpo. And so, in this way, the great Lama Sakyapa Kunga
Nyingpo became the owner of all the Buddha's teachings. Kunga Nyingpo gave these
teaching to his sons and many of his disciples, and it has continued up to the present day.
This is a very brief history of how the Lam Dre teaching was started.
The famous five Sakya teachers, the Jetsuns, are members of the Khon lineage. Sonam
Tsemo was Sachen Kunga Nyingpo's son, and Sakya Pandita was Sonam Tsemo's nephew,
and Chogyal Phagpa was the son of Sakya Pandita's brother.
Overview of the Lam Dre Structure
The Lam Dre teaching is very profound and very vast. Though it is one teaching, it can be
practiced in many different ways. Those destined to follow the gradual path will start first
with the Hinayana path and then continue with the Mahayana and Vajrayana. Others may
be able to follow the direct path due to circumstances related to their state of mind and their
karmic connections. So for this reason there are many different ways to present the Lam Dre
teaching to disciples. The common way is to combine the whole of the Lam Dre teachings into
two parts: the preliminary part and the main part.
The preliminary part is included in the preliminary teaching known as the Triple Vision. The
Triple Vision consists of the base, the path, and the result. The base refers to sentient
beings. Due to karma and defilements, sentient beings have the impure vision, which is the
ordinary vision that we have right now. Yogis and practitioners who have enrolled in the
path and practice meditation have the vision of experience. After working on the path very
hard, one achieves the result, which is Buddhahood. The Buddhas have great inner qualities
and pure vision. So, the triple vision refers to the impure vision, the vision of experience,
and the pure vision. This is how the preliminary part is divided.
In the Lam Dre, as in all Buddhist traditions, the very first point- the preliminary practice of
all the paths, the root of all dharma and the foundation of all vows is to take refuge in the
Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The practice of Refuge differentiates Buddhist practitioners
from practitioners of other religions. The first meditations of the preliminary part divide taking
refuge into three sections:
1. Taking refuge and creating the enlightenment thought
2. Practicing the main part of the meditation
3. Dedicating the merit
To more full understand Refuge, five additional points are used to clarify the principles:
1. the cause
2. the object
3. the way
4. the benefit
5. the rules of refuge
1-3. Regarding the cause of taking refuge: we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and
Sangha out of fear, faith and compassion. The object is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
In the Mahayana, the word 'Buddha' is used to refer to one who possesses three kayas [or
aspects]: the dharmakaya, the nirmanakaya, and the samboghakaya. The Dharma or the
teaching points us to the realization. The Sangha refers to the great boddhisattva who has
already reached the irreversible state. We take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
with the Buddha as our guide, the Dharma as our path; and the Sangha as our spiritual
4. As it is said in the scriptures, the benefit of taking refuge is immense. If the merit we earn
in taking refuge had physical form, the whole universe would be too small to accommodate it.
5. Regarding the rules of taking refuge: there are general rules and individual rules. These
will be explained in detail at another time.
The Impure Vision
There are three preliminary meditations:
2. Impermanence and the rarity of human rebirth
3. The law of cause and effect
The explanation on the impure vision is given first in order to develop renunciation. This is
connected to the first turning of the wheel of dharma by Buddha Shakyamuni, in which he
taught the four noble truths.
The first noble truth is the truth of suffering, the second truth is the cause of suffering, the
third is the truth of cessation, and the fourth is the truth of the path. In order to be free
from suffering, we must first understand the nature of suffering. For example, when we are
sick, we must first know the disease before we are able to get the proper treatment. It is for
this reason that the first noble truth- the truth of suffering, must be understood. We begin
by understanding the nature of suffering in samsara.
There are three types of suffering:
1. the suffering of suffering
2. the suffering of change
3. the suffering of the conditional nature of all things.
The suffering of suffering means the visible suffering we have all experienced, such as
physical pain and mental anxiety. Beings reborn in the lower realms- the hell realm, the
hungry ghost realm, the animal realm- have an intense experience of the first suffering. In
the higher realms it appears that there is a mixture of suffering and happiness, but in reality,
there is no such mixture. The experience of suffering in the higher realms is merely different
than it is in the lower realms. First of all, we all experience the sufferings of physical pain
and mental anxiety. Also we experience the suffering of change, in that anything that is
created with cause and conditions is impermanent, and anything that is impermanent is
conditioned by suffering. In this sense, just as the outside world changes, as in the changing
of the seasons, change is also occurring in our own lives. Young ones grow older, large
families become smaller - everything is changing. The third suffering is the suffering of the
conditional nature of all things. Feelings which we normally categorize as "happy" or
"indifferent," exist only in relation to other feelings. In reality, there is no happiness in these
relative feelings. In samsara as a whole, from top to bottom, there is no essential happiness.
So although in certain ways we have less suffering and in certain ways experience more
suffering, in reality, there is not a single aspect of our experience that is worthy of
attachment. For example, when a poison is mixed with food, whether it is good food or bad
food, the poison still is harmful. Therefore, in order to arouse renunciation the first part of
the Lam Dre teaching emphasizes the meditation on suffering.
In order to fully arouse renunciation, the teachings explain the details of sufferings;
especially the hell realm and the hungry ghost realm. According to the teachings, the whole
universe is divided into six realms: three lower realms which include the hell realm, the
hungry ghost realm, and animal realm; and three higher realms: the human realm, the
demi-god realm and the god's realm. But taken together, in samsaric existence there is not a
single space that is worthy of attachment.
In order to arouse the inner urge to free ourselves from suffering, we have to concentrate
on the first step: the different conditions, and the different levels of suffering.
2. Impermanence and the rarity of human rebirth
The second preliminary practice is to meditate on the difficulties of obtaining the precious
human birth. As ordinary sentient beings we are only able to perceive the impure vision, due
to our karma and defilements. We conclude that this impure vision came from our own
actions; therefore, the only way to be free from this realm of existence is to practice the
holy Dharma. In order to practice the holy Dharma, we need to first obtain a precious
To obtain a precious human birth is very rare. In order to be born as a human being,
generally one must have created the proper causes in advance - such as having practiced
virtuous deeds, especially pure moral conduct, supported by other good deeds such as
generosity combined with sincere prayers. It is very rare for all of these qualities to combine
together. Consider the world today, and of the many people who practice the spiritual path.
Even of those who appear to practice dharma, many of them only practice externally and
on a superficial level. Since the cause is rare, the result is very rare. So from the causal
point of view, all of these qualities are very rare. From the sheer numerical point of view,
outwardly it seems that there are so many people; however, if you think about it carefully, it
is very easy to count how many people live in one house; and yet it is impossible to count
how many different beings, including insects, are in the same house. So from point of view
of how many sentient beings exist already, human life can be understood as very rare.
From the point of view of nature, generally human life is rare, particularly those who have
been freed from all the unfavorable states of mind, or the human life that has all the right
conditions. The additional conditions for an optimal human rebirth are to be born at the time
that a Buddha has come to this universe, or in a time when a Buddha has given the teaching
and the teaching is still a living tradition, or being born with functioning sensory organs, and
with an eagerness to receive the teachings. Just from these factors we see that it is very,
very difficult to find the Dharma. Therefore, we must think that human life is very
precious, more precious than the wish-fulfilling jewel. The wish-fulfilling jewel is the most
precious thing of all material things because if one has it, it can bestow all our material
requirements such as food, medicine and clothing. However, the wish-fulfilling jewel cannot
bestow his/her rebirth, self-liberation, or enlightenment. But with the precious human body
and hard work, it is possible to achieve not only higher rebirth and personal liberation, but
even ultimate enlightenment. One must not only intellectually understand the value of the
precious body, but also feel that it is very precious and very rare because it is more valuable
than the wish-fulfilling jewel. When one possesses such a precious thing, one then
understands that there is no greater loss than losing this very rare opportunity. If one cannot
make use of this precious time, one will never know whether there will be such an
opportunity in the future. Therefore, it is very important for us to work when we have all
the right conditions, and are free from all the unfavorable states.
In other teachings, the meaning of the precious human birth and impermanence are taught
separately, but in the Lam Dre they are taught together. The precious human birth that we
have now is impermanent. Since everything is impermanent we must understand that our
precious human birth is impermanent also. In the Sutras, it is said that the best offering that
one can offer to the Buddha is to think about impermanence, because just by thinking about
impermanence will turn us away from attachments. By thinking about impermanence we
will be motivated to practice and make efforts on the spiritual path. Thinking about
impermanence is a great antidote to suffering, and will eventually help us to realize the
In this way, we must be mindful that this human existence that we enjoy now has no
definite life span. We all know people can die before birth, or soon after birth, or when they
are babies or grownups, and so forth. Moreover, even if one has a certain amount of time,
there is no actual reason that one will live up to that time because anything can happen. It is
the same as a butter lamp with oil that can be blown out at any moment due to a sudden
wind. In the same way, the precious life that we have right now, even if one is young and
healthy, can be affected by outer or inner obstacles. Anything can happen, and at any
moment one can die. Therefore, not only is it important to practice dharma, but it is very
important to practice it quickly without wasting any time.
3. The law of cause and effect
The third preliminary is the law of karma: cause and effect. It is one of the unique teachings
that the Buddha gave in order to show what one must do and what practices one must
follow. Everything we see and experience, including our current quality of life has been
created by our own actions. The teaching on cause and effect has two parts: the illusory
vision and the karmic vision.
The Illusory Vision.
The illusory vision is sometimes referred to as the "jeweled vision." Just as in a dream,
when we are dreaming the experience is as real as in our waking life, but when we awake,
nothing remains of the things that we saw and experienced. In this great illusory vision,
subject and the object appear separately. All sentient beings experience this illusory vision,
and it characterizes the world we live in now.
The Karmic Vision.
The karmic vision consists of the different perspective each sentient being has, based on
their karma. For example, some beings have less suffering, some have more suffering, and
so on. In any case, the law of karma requires that whatever action we take, the result will
follow; just as surely as our shadow follows us wherever we go. Similarly virtuous and
non-virtuous actions are like seeds which we plant. In due course, the seed will ripen and
produces the result.
There are non-virtuous, virtuous, and neutral deeds. Non-virtuous deeds are actions created
out of ignorance, desire, and hatred. If the root of a tree is poisonous, the flowers and
leaves that grow from it are also poisonous. In the same way, whatever actions that are
generated by desire, hatred and ignorance are called non-virtuous deeds which create
suffering in this life as well as in future lives.
There are three kinds of action: physical, verbal, and mental; and there are ten non-virtuous
deeds. Virtuous actions are deeds done without hatred, desire, or ignorance. Actions which
are motivated by loving kindness and compassion are called virtuous deeds. If the root of a
tree is medicinal, then whatever grows from the tree is also medicinal. Similarly, any action
that is created without the defilements is called a virtuous deed. Virtuous deeds create
happiness in this life as well as in future lives.
Finally, there are actions that are neither virtuous or non-virtuous deeds, such as walking
and sitting. Since these actions do not produce any negative results, they are greater than
the non-virtuous deeds; yet since they do not produce any positive results, they are inferior
to virtuous deeds. It is important to turn these neutral deeds into positive deeds.
If one wishes to be free from suffering, one must abstain from negative deeds. We begin by
abstaining from the cause: if we indulge in a negative cause, then we can't expect to have
happiness as the result. Therefore, we must abstain from even the tiniest negative deeds,
and we must try our best to practice even very small virtuous deeds. In the same way that
an accumulation of drops of water forms the great oceans, even tiny virtuous deeds will
gradually accumulate and produce a beneficial result. Regarding indifferent actions that are
neither virtuous nor non-virtuous, one should change one's motivations using the skillful
means of the bodhisattva's way of life. One should try to convert negative deeds through
diligent practice. This is a very brief explanation of the first part of the Lam Dre, the Impure
Some questions and answers follow, which relate in particular to the topic of the Impure
Q: Are there factors that determine at what time during this or future lifetimes that the fruit
of a person's virtuous actions will manifest? What are the factors?
Sakya Trizin: It depends on the action itself. There are certain actions that will ripen in this
life. When the object is strong, the action is strong, and the intention is strong, then the
result ripens in this very lifetime. There are certain actions that ripen in this life after this
lifetime, or even in several lifetimes later. The law of cause and effect is such a subtle thing
that no ordinary person can fully explain it.
Q: Sakya Pandita was very critical on the use of the term "mahamudra" for anything less than
the highest completion practice. Would you comment on this in connection to the other schools
of Tibetan Buddhism?
Sakya Trizin: Actually, Sakya Pandita did not say that we couldn't use the term "mahamudra".
With any practice, not necessarily mahamudra, if we do not do it correctly, we can not achieve
the result. If we do it correctly, with the right teacher, the right path, and the right method, we
can achieve the result. What he said was that in order to attain enlightenment, we must follow
the right practices that balance method and wisdom. Mahamudra is primordial wisdom that we
experience through meditation.
Q: Please explain the concept of karma and its relationship to cause and effect and merit.
Sakya Trizin: Actually the word karma means action or activities - the work that we undertake.
The life we go through now, and all of its experiences, is the product of our own actions that we
have taken in the past. Nobody can make us suffer. Nobody can make us happy. Only through
the main cause that comes from our own actions will we be happy or suffer. The main cause is
our own action. The actions that we've taken create the effect and the result.
The Vision of Experience
The second part of the Lam Dre is the vision of experience, which consists of two
parts. The first part is the common vision of experience and the second part is the
uncommon vision of experience.
The Common Vision of Experience
The common vision of experience refers to the experience of the common Mahayana
practitioner. These practioners apply themselves to meditation on loving kindness,
compassion, and the enlightenment thought. By practicing these, one will experience the
vision of experience. First, in order to arouse this vision, one must practice loving kindness.
To practice loving kindness one must see that samsara is full of suffering. Next, one sees
that since everyone wishes to be free from suffering, one must work to be free from
suffering. One then aspires to attain personal freedom or nirvana for oneself. We must
view the impermanence of our present aggregates, understanding our situation is like a
fire without fuel which will eventually go out. Similarly, when one attains nirvana, the
aggregates, which are the base of suffering, disappear. However, this goal is only an
intermediate goal: if we carefully consider the situation we will see that this is not the
ultimate goal. Working for oneself alone is not the highest aspiration. For example, it
would not be appropriate to remain in a safe place if the other members of our family were
in great trouble. If one is a good and kind-hearted person, one would not be happy in such
a situation, but would rather go, and suffer together with the other members of one's family.
We believe that a continuum exists in our present awareness. Since our present body came
from our parents, our consciousness must have come from the same kind of mind we experience
now. From birth and continuing until old age, although our consciousness changes, the mind
continuum remains the same. In this sense, there is no gap in the continuum - the same mind
is simply taking different forms. This same example is used to prove that the mind has to exist
before the formation of our physical body. Likewise, when we die, the mind cannot be burned
or buried, but continues on in another form.
In this sense, there is no time that is considered the beginning of the individual mind. From
beginningless time until now we have continued in this realm of existence: we have taken
birth, we have died, and we have taken on another form. It is for this reason we believe that
at one time or another, every sentient being has been our dear mother, or father, or relative,
or friend. Abandoning other sentient beings in order to achieve our own salvation is not the
proper goal of spiritual practice. We must continually think of other sentient beings in our
When we begin to consider developing loving kindness, we should remember that every
sentient being, even the most fearful animal has a kind of instinctive capacity for loving
kindness. Even fearful lions love their cubs. We all have a certain level of loving kindness,
but not a full capacity for it. So, we must first cultivate kindness toward persons for whom
this is easier - such as our own mother, or relatives or friends. We begin by cultivating the
loving kindness we already have, and then work on increasing it. Next, we should try to
develop loving kindness to more difficult objects, like one's enemies. We should attempt to
transcend the superficial distinction between people we see as friends, as enemies, or those
we treat with indifference. In reality, we should see ourselves as having been related to all
three kinds of persons at one time or another. By understanding our relatedness to others,
and seeing that they have given us much love and kindness as our relatives and friends, we
can finally develop loving kindness for all sentient beings indiscriminately. It is possible for
us to wish all sentient beings to be happy and to experience the cause of happiness. In this
way we must cultivate and build up loving kindness toward all.
After we develop loving kindness we must next develop compassion. We generate
compassion by focussing on a particular sentient being that is suffering, and wishing that
they be free from the suffering and its causes. As in the meditation on loving kindness, we
start first with easier objects, and then gradually build up to more difficult objects, and
finally apply the meditation to all sentient beings.
On the basis of loving kindness and compassion, we then develop the ultimate enlightenment
thought. In order to completely free oneself from samsara, one must cut the root of samsara,
which is self-clinging. Although in ultimate reality, the "self" does not exist, due to the illusions
of the "jewelled vision," we perform actions. Through these actions we get caught up in this
realm of existence. We therefore must create bodhicitta to crush self-clinging, which is the
source of all suffering and the cause of the illusory vision. In order to crush self-clinging thoughts
one must practice the two bodhicittas - which are known as relative and absolute bodhicitta.
Relative bodhicitta suppresses self-clinging by making it inactive. Absolute bodhicitta completely
Relative bodhicitta has two parts - wishing bodhicitta and entering bodhicitta. Wishing
bodhicitta means to have a sincere wish to attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all
sentient beings. Entering bodhicitta means not only to have the wish, but to actually
undertake some kind of practice to achieve enlightenment. This implies enrolling on the path
and proceeding with practice. Efforts which are made after generating the wish to attain
enlightenment such as studying, contemplation and meditation, are considered entering
bodhicitta. From the very beginning of this practice one must see oneself on an equal level
with others. This is an important practice because we are in the habit of believing that there
is an enormous difference between ourselves and others. No matter how much we care for
others, self-clinging is a propensity we have experienced from beginningless time. Even
when we consider another person "beloved," typically one still cares more about oneself,
and self-clinging pe rsists. To change this we must cultivate the practice of loving other
beings as much as ourselves. Then gradually, as we habituate this attitude, we are able to
begin to give up our happiness, benefits, and other good things, for the sake of other beings.
Then, we begin to take the sufferings and the cause of sufferings of others onto ourselves.
If we had done this in the past, we would already be enlightened. But from beginningless
time until now, we have only cared for ourselves. We care for ourselves to the point that
every effort we make is only for our own sake, although all this achieves for us is more
suffering. It is for this reason we begin to do the exchange meditations, first for ordinary
persons, and later on with more difficult objects, like one's enemies, and finally for all
sentient beings. In this way we accumulate merit and eradicate selfish thoughts as well as
the attitude of self-clinging.
The next topic is the general bodhisattva activities. The relative bodhicitta thought only
suppresses self-clinging, so that the defilements become inactive. In this sense, the
defilements are not eradicated, but appear again in the future when the conditions are right
again. Therefore, in order to completely eradicate the attitude of self-clinging, one needs to
practice absolute bodhicitta.
Absolute bodhicitta refers to the absolute reality, the true nature of all phenomena. This is
not the sort of thing ordinary people attempt to understand. More intelligent beings try to
examine and draw conclusions from questions such as: What is our true nature? Why are
we here? Why do we have to experience this kind of life, and why do we have to have this
sort of vision? . This is the reason there are so many different philosophical schools like
Sarvastivada, Vijnanavada, and Madhyamika. And within these schools there are also
Sometimes, students find it difficult to understand the concept of generating loving kindness
toward our mothers, families and friends, because of the difficulties they have experienced
with dysfunctional, addicted, and unloving families and relationships. When we give
teachings, the teachings are given to help people eliminate suffering and lead them to
enlightenment. So the presentation is given in the best possible way. It is true that it is
difficult to practice loving kindness and compassion, especially in this degenerate age. When
we teach through the pith instructions, teachings that have been passed down from one guru
to the next, they have a very special effectiveness. So by presenting these, even if one
cannot practice all of it, part of it might actually be very helpful. The Buddha's teaching is
like an ocean, very deep and wide. Whatever amount one can take, even as little as a
spoonful will be of great benefit. Moreover it is basic human nature that we all need love
and kindness. We must try to cultivate these virtues through various methods, through the
teachings, and through actual experience. We must make every effort through the various
The Pure Vision
Many of the higher tantric teachings call this ultimate reality, "the simultaneously
born primordial wisdom." "Simultaneous" means that the result and the cause arise
simultaneously - the result is not elsewhere. In this sense, the result is not something
we seek outside ourselves, but which is actually within ourselves. Because the cause
and the result are simultaneously born, Buddha Nature is within every human being.
If we make efforts, we can all attain full enlightenment. In the relative sense, we go through
different phases along the path to enlightenment; however, we must understand that there is
a continuity between the ordinary cause mind and the ultimate enlightenment mind. We
might consider the example of a copper container which is used to hold dirty things. When
such a container is used for dirty things, we consider the container itself dirty. But if the
same copper were melted down and made into ornaments which people wore proudly and
others admired, then we would consider the copper radically transformed. If again, the
ornaments were melted down and made into the image of a deity, then the copper becomes
even more precious, as people worship and pay respect to the image. The point is, of
course, that the actual nature or real quality of the copper never changes. The same copper
has been used as a dirty container, as ornaments, and as the image of a deity. The face or
the appearance of the co pper may change, but the actual quality of the copper does not
change. Similarly, the natural cause, the true state of our mind, is the Buddha nature. The
true state of all phenomena is the same everywhere.
Through our practice, the application of method and wisdom eliminates obscuration and
finally enables us to achieve results.
After the vision of experience, when obscurations have been gradually eliminated, and inner
wisdom improves, the pure vision is attained. The Buddhas or Tathagatas abandon every
possible fault or obscuration and then, through their great realizations, achieve the pure
vision. Just as a man who has awakened from sleep cannot experience his dreams, similarly,
beings who are completely awakened from illusion cannot see the impure vision. They see
the same vision that we have now, in complete pure vision, everything in form and
primordial wisdom and everything in pure vision.
A Spontaneous Vajra Song
by Venerable Gendun Rinpoche
cannot be found through great effort and willpower,
but is already present in open relaxation and letting go.
Don't strain yourself, there is nothing to do nor undo.
Whatever momentarily arises in the body mind
has no real importance at all, has little reality whatsoever.
Why identify with and become attached to it,
passing judgement upon it and ourselves.
Far better to simply let the entire game happen on its own,
springing up and falling back like waves
- without changing or manipulating anything -
and notice how everything vanishes and reappears magically
again and again, time without end.
Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It is like a vivid rainbow which you pursue without ever catching,
or a dog chasing its own tail.
Although peace and happiness do not exist as an actual thing or place,
it is always available and accompanies you every instant.
Don't believe in the reality of good and bad experiences;
they are like today's ephemeral weather, like rainbows in the sky.
Wanting to grasp the ungraspable, you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax this fist of grasping,
infinite space is there - open, inviting and comfortable.
Make use of this spaciousness, this freedom and natural ease.
Don't search any further. Don't go into the tangled jungle
looking for the great awakened elephant who is already resting
quietly at home in front of your own hearth.
Nothing to do or undo. Nothing to force. Nothing to want.
Emaho! Marvelous! Everything happens by itself.
Santideva, a very great master of India, composed many texts and commentaries, among which "Bodhicaryavatara is die most profound. Santideva composed these teachings without any pride or ego. He wrote them just for the benefit of all beings.
Therefore, this text is most effective for everybody. If a person writes with pride of intelligence, his explanations will not be suitable for every level of people.
BRIEF HISTORY OF SANTIDEVA'S LIFE
To begin with the teaching, it is good to understand a little background of Santideva's life story. Santideva was a prince born in Bengal. He renounced his position and sought many masters. He studied, practised and completed all his education at the Nalanda Buddhist College, the most famous Buddhist College during Ins time. He attained perfect realisation.
He was usually very humble and lived as simply as possible. Therefore, people usually did not see him as a very special and realised person. No one thought that he was a great Siddha. Most of those at Nalanda felt that he was wasting the Sangha's food. They could not see him as what the other masters do. What they saw was that he just ate and slept, without doing anything.
At that time the whole Sangha had a meeting. They thought: "The sangha's food and facilities were to be used for good purposes but this monk does nothing but eat and sleep. As such, he has been accumulating bad karma and misleading others. They wanted to expel him
Each month they had a ceremony to restore broken vows. During that ceremony, each master took turns to read the Sutras. They did not know Santideva's understanding and realisation from his outlook. So they thought, "If we invite him to read the Sutra, he would go off by himself if he doesn't know how to read.
Wanting to embarrass Santideva further, they put up a very high throne and invited him to sit on it and read the sutra. Santideva accepted the invitation.
He touched the throne by his hand and the throne went down. He sat on the throne and asked, "Do you want to hear the existing Sutras or something new?" The monks were very curious but did not know that he had the knowledge, so they asked him to explain his own commentary.
That was how the teaching of Bodhicaryavatara started. When the teaching reached the Wisdom chapter, he floated in the air, went higher and higher then became invisible. Later, all the sanghas regretted treating him in such a manner. They tried to find him but failed.
At last, at a mountain retreat, some people saw him. They observed that each day, a deer would go into his cave but they never came out. Everybody thought, "This master has been taking deer meat for such a long time." They carried weapons and went into his cave to beat him up; not knowing that he had already became a yogi, whose actions are not fixed like ordinary people. When they reached die cave, all the deer came out first; he came out last. To their surprise, the deer were very well dressed.
Actually, he was giving dharma talk to the deer. All the people regretted and confessed to him. All the sanghas also regretted what they had done and went to confess to him.
All the masters and great Arhants noted down all his teachings without leaving out anything. His teachings explained entirely the development of Bodhicitta. Even though it is now very famous throughout the Buddhist world, it was never heard of by anybody at that time. However, his teachings were not new.
It was still part of Buddha's teachings, although it was his commentary based on his own knowledge and practices.
In the introductory chapter of the Text, Santideva said, "These commentaries may not be beneficial for others but they are very beneficial for myself and my mind stream".
This is a humble way of expression. Great masters always try to put down self and put up others. They try to get rid of their pride and ego in this way.
This teaching contains ten chapters or categories of explanation.
CHAPTER I - PRECIOUS HUMAN BODY
The first chapter talks about the precious human body and how we should make proper use of it. It also introduces Bodhicitta.
The commentary states that the precious human body, with all the right conditions is very difficult to obtain. Once it is fortunately obtained, if not properly used, it is not easy to obtain again in future. When obtained, the precious human body has lots of negative actions most of the time. So much so that the chances of reflecting positive thoughts are very slim
Sometimes, we do have good thoughts. This comes either through the blessings from the Buddha or the result of one's own good karma. Such good thoughts are like a dark night without moonlight or stars. Suddenly lightning comes. Instantly one can see things for just one second and it goes off again. Our daily life is just like that. We tend to have negative thoughts. It is so difficult for good thoughts to arise, just like the lightning that appears for only a second.
Once we have reflected positive thoughts, we have to combine it with good action and attitude. This will be the turning point of oneself. The accumulation of negative actions is so great that they are not so easy to purify or to get rid off. We have accumulated these negative actions since the beginning of time. Our accumulations of good actions are just like lightning. They come suddenly and go off in a second. So, it is very difficult to clear away our negative actions.
However, because of the compassion and skilful means of the Buddha, any amount of negative actions can be purified. This is done through the development of Bodhicitta to purify all our defilements in a short time. It is just like the burning of bushes that are as huge as a mountain with lust one matchstick 40 burn the whole thing effortlessly. No accumulation of merits can do this.
Our accumulation of negative actions is so much that we need eons to purify them. But if we use this profound method, we do not need so much effort. This Bodhicitta or Enlightened Attitude is able to turn one's ordinary state to the Enlightenment State, just like a formula that turns metal into gold. It can turn our body, which is so dirty and imperfect, into Enlightenment. So, the development of Bodhicitta is a very perfect method.
Compared with Bodhicitta, the other methods of accumulation of merits, such as doing good deeds, are very mild and very poor They are just like banana trees, once the fruits are grown, their trunks have to be chopped down as they cannot bear fruit again. The development of Bodhicitta is like other fruit trees. They keep producing fruits throughout their whole lifetime. The accumulations of merits do not have an end.
Bodhicitta has two parts: Aspiration Bodhicitta and Application Bodhicitta. Aspiration Bodhicitta is just like our Intention to go on a journey. For example, I want to go to the United States. Firstly, I must have the intention to go there. Next, I decide to go there. When I have decided to go there, that is Aspiration Bodhicitta. In practice we say, "For the benefits of all sentient beings, I must achieve Enlightenment".
Application Bodhicitta is like I have bought an air ticket and boarded the plane. Each moment of the time when the plane flies towards the destination, I am getting closer and closer to Enlightenment. In practice, we go through the path of purification, accumulation of merits and wisdom, etc, until we reach the Enlightenment State. This is Application Bodhicitta.
CHAPTER 2 - CONFESSION
In order to absorb this Bodhicitta, we do certain actions, i.e. offering, prostration, taking refuge and confession. These start with the offering of one's own body, speech and mind to the Buddha. It also includes whatever good things we have, such as the mandala offering, and whatever things we feel good, in order to get rid of attachment.
In order to absorb the qualities of the Buddha, we do prostrations and take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Buddhahood is the final destination we have to reach. We have to realize Buddhahood; therefore we take refuge in the Buddha. We have to rely on the Buddha.
Taking refuge in the Dharma, the teachings of Buddha is the Path to enable us to achieve our final destination. So, we also rely on the teachings of the Buddha.
The Sangha is the guidance. To follow the path securely, we need spiritual guidance from spiritual friends, that is, taking refuge in the Sangha.
The final part of this chapter is on confession. Whenever we examine our actions and ourselves in the past and present, we find a lot of actions, which are not favourable and are not according to the Dharma, or they are bad actions. If we don't recognise them as bad, we cannot abandon them. If we recognise, we can heal.
We should think, "I should not do this. Wrong actions will lead to sufferings." So, recognise our wrong actions and feel regret, and think, "I should stop doing this in future, since I know this is not good". We also rely on Buddha for forgiveness.
CHAPTER 3 - TAKING BODHICITTA VOWS
The third chapter is on taking the Bodhicitta Vows. We take the Bodhicitta Vows as all those great beings had done previously. They had treasured Bodhicitta, taken the Bodhicitta Vows, attained Enlightenment and benefited all sentient beings unconditionally. We say, "Likewise, today, I also want to follow their way of actions, so I take the Bodhicitta Vows. Henceforth, I will do all the actions which benefit sentient beings." This is the meaning of Bodhicitta Vows.
CHAPTER 4 - BEHAVIOUR
The fourth chapter is on correcting one's behaviour, such as morality. Once we have taken the Bodhicitta Vows, we are to observe the Vows and benefit the sentient beings. We have to engage. Once we study the qualities of Bodhicitta, we appreciate the Bodhicitta and how it is good, then we decide to take the Bodhisattva Vows and invoke the Bodhicitta. Then we are to observe the Path of a Bodhisattva. This is through your own wisdom, to understand the qualities and truly examine and check and find its perfection.
Once you engage, then you are not supposed to break the Vows, It is very stupid if you take the Vows when you feel like and break them when you don't feel like it. I mean, without using your own wisdom to understand the qualities, just blindly following the words of others those sons of very foolish things. Therefore, the commentary tries to explain that those who have wisdom and use their wisdom to decide certain things will never reverse their decision. They will go forward. That is the important point. Take the Vows and go forward. That means, we should not give up.
If we are not satisfied, then before we engage, we should study further and try to understand better. Once you go forward, try not to reverse. Once we have decided to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings and we give up this attitude that means we have broken the Vows. When we break the Vows, we have betrayed all sentient beings. We have cheated all the sentient beings because we had promised to protect and liberate them from all sufferings. If you just give up half way, you have just ignored the sufferings of the sentient beings. That is considered as betrayal and cheating all sentient beings.
If, because of just one person whom you dislike, you think, "I want to save all sentient beings except this person, who is most irritating," then it is also considered as breaking the Vows. We have to liberate all sentient beings unconditionally.
The behaviour of a Bodhisattva, i.e. after you have taken the Bodhicitta Vows, must be always ready to help sentient beings for whatever is the need. If they need advice, use your best wisdom to give them advice. If they need shelter, try to provide shelter. Those who are already in the great path of a Bodhisattva even sacrifice their lives to the needs of others, but this is not at our level. Within our capacity, we try to benefit others as much as we can and totally avoid being harmful to others.
CHAPTER 5 - MINDFULNESS
we observe the Vows of a Bodhisattva, we have to be very careful. We have to observe
our mind consciously. If we do not observe our mind, then we cannot observe the
Vows of a Bodhisattva. The mind plays a very important role. It is the first one
to start, and then the action follows up with the mind. Therefore, observing the
mind is very important.
The mind is just like a wild elephant. It can be very destructive but through mindfulness, we can train that mind. We can tame it until it becomes like a domesticated elephant. Our awareness or subconsciousness is just like a trainer. With patience, we can tame our mind. Once our mind is tamed, the environment or others do not affect it.
Like the sufferings in hell and the sufferings of hungry ghosts, they do not actually exist in a solid form somewhere. Are somebody punishing and somebody suffering continuously? It is not so. Santideva said, "Who makes the Burning Iron Ground and who creates all the beings and the person in the hell who is punishing everybody? There is no one who makes or creates these. These are the manifestations of our own confused mind. The suffering of hell is not somewhere else but is within the mind. Enlightenment is also not somewhere else, it is within the mind."
Therefore, in the whole world, there is nothing more destructive than the mind. The mind can manifest hell and the mind can manifest Enlightenment. So, the most important thing is observing our own mind. We have to be mindful. If we observe our mind, the rest of the actions will be naturally corrected.
Just like the ground that is covered with stones and thorns which cannot be stepped on. In order to make it safe, you cannot cover the whole ground with leather because that would be too much and you will never have enough to cover the whole world. You can just wear shoes and walk. That is very safe.
We do not have to tackle each and every negative action or consequence one by one. We try to tame our own mind, then we have tamed the rest of the defilements, the rest of the causes and conditions.
Without mindfulness, whatever good actions we do, It is not safe or secure. It can be very easily destroyed, once we don't have the mindfulness. Defilements are just like a thief without knowing it can take all our accumulation of good merits.
That means, when we don't have mindfulness, we become careless. When we become careless, unknowingly we may do a lot of wrong things. Without realising that which is wrong, we will go towards the wrong path and the wrong direction. In that way, all our accumulation of merits will vanish or be destroyed.
Mindfulness applies to any action we do. Even when I have to talk to somebody, I have to examine whether this kind of speech will cause negativeness or not, and whether it will affect someone badly or not. Not only speech, in whatever action we do, we must always examine first. We must always be aware, through our own investigation, that this is the right thing I should say or do. This is mindfulness.
we just say whatever we think without any check, this is without mindfulness.
If you say it just because you want to say it, without going through any examination,
without going through any right or wrong check, this is without mindfulness. This
can be very destructive to oneself and others.
CHAPTER 6 - PATIENCE
The sixth chapter is on Patience or Tolerance. This is also very important in order to develop Bodhicitta. Santideva said, "For thousands of eons, one has accumulated merits, generosity and offerings to the Tathagatas (Buddhas). Whatever good actions one has accumulated can be destroyed by one chance of hatred. Therefore, hatred is the most destructive and leads oneself to the lower realms. There is no greater sin than hatred.
This means hatred is the worst negative action and has the heaviest consequences that one has to experience, such as being in the hell.
Patience is the greatest merit and greatest practice. With patience, one can able to absorb all the qualities. Therefore, Buddha, in this teaching, emphasised tolerance or patience as the very important part.
Hatred does not only lead one to the hell or lower realms, or sufferings in the next life, it has also the immediate effect that you can experience the sufferings. Once a person is angry with someone, it is impossible for this person to have happiness or peace of mind. This person will suffer very deep confusion. That means he is suffering tremendously from mental disturbances. Even within an instance, one can also experience that kind of suffering.
relevance to the next life, or that, which accumulates the habitual tendency,
according to many Sutras and Tantras, hatred directly leads to sufferings in the
hell. This atmosphere of confusion becomes real when a person is undergoing the
next rebirth so that he will constantly experience the consequences of hatred
as if he suffering in the hell.
Even though hatred is the greatest sin, it doesn't mean it is not unavoidable. It can be changed because there is nothing that cannot be corrected or changed in this world. Everything can be improved.
Therefore, Santideva advised: Try to develop patience when faced with very mild and very small harmful acts, move gradually to the more harmful ones, and then to the broader and most harmful ones. In this way, you can develop patience. Even though one may be very temperamental in the past, one can be tamed into a very patient person.
Whatever unfavourable things come your way from another party, one should not blame that person directly, because all these kinds of harm are done without intention and do not completely involve the individual himself. This is very much dependent on the conditions.
When causes and conditions are unfavourable, the person has no choice; he has to do it. Then comes the unfavourable result. One should not always blame that person. Rather, oneself should take part of the blame also, because oneself is also a condition to the effect. This is also a method of practice.
Normally, when these kinds of things happened, one always think oneself is perfectly faultless and the other is full of faults. When one tries to defend himself, it becomes worse. There is a method to contemplate in a way, not to blame the individuals. The example given is of a person who is possessed.
When a person is possessed, lie or she can be very violent and very destructive. But still the physician, or the one who treats will not care about this violence. He understands the cause of the violence and therefore does not react in anger. He knows exactly what is happening.
Actually, this is the same in our daily life. Hatred is the defilement and a very powerful defilement. Once one is possessed, he has not a single choice. He has to act violently. As long as you understand the teaching, the cause and condition, then you should not take it seriously. You should have more understanding, just like a physician who understands his patient. This is a very profound method of application during our daily life.
CHAPTER 7 - DILIGENCE
The 7th Chapter is on Diligence. Diligence is always an important goal because without effort one cannot go forward towards the Path. It is just like without wind, a boat does not move. Therefore, we have to develop diligence in order to progress in our development more rapidly.
How do we recognise diligence? A practitioner who has diligence is one who has a certain kind of joy towards the Path. That is the recognition of diligence. Once you have the joy, once you are clear and once you know that this is a very good thing towards the Path, diligence will naturally come. We don't have to put so much effort to do it. But once you have the joy, once you have that interest, then you will develop it accordingly. Joy towards the path is the meaning of Diligence.
In other words, diligence does not mean that you have to force yourself to work harden This is not perfect diligence as you will have the tendency to give up very easily. In order to develop this perfect diligence, you have to understand more things - understand the suffering of Samsara, understand the quality of Bodhicitta and understand the qualities of Enlightenment. So once you understand all these factors, then diligence will come effortlessly. You don't have to force yourself to do it. It will come spontaneously. That is the perfect Diligence.
To understand the suffering of Samsara and the qualities of Enlightenment, it does not mean that we must always think of the bad side of samsara. We can also think of the good side of samsara - certain limits of happiness and pleasure that one can also experience in samsara. But we must check what such happiness is. Such happiness Is part of certain good karma but the good karma is not perfect because it does not last long. This kind of happiness in the Samsara is just like licking honey on a razor You try to taste the honey, so you lick the razor and it cuts your tongue. So, you experience the good taste and sufferings as well. The Samsaric or worldly happiness is just like this kind of happiness.
Therefore, in Samsara, happiness is not perfect happiness and suffering is unbearable suffering. Even with such kind of imperfect happiness, we struggle and sacrifice our lives for it. What about Enlightenment, which is perfect happiness, permanent happiness and faultless? With these kinds of qualities, how should we contemplate?
We should not contemplate what worldly happiness offers. We should try to strive for more than the worldly happiness, that is, the Enlightenment State. This is all about Diligence.
CHAPTER 8 - MEDITATION
The next chapter is on Meditation or Meditative Concentration. In order to develop Wisdom, we need to have a stable mind. Therefore, we need to develop Meditation. Once an individual's mind is not controlled or is distracted, then that person is always in the risk of defilement, just like a person caught between the jaws of a crocodile. If our mind is distracted, then negative thoughts will come. We may follow the negative thoughts and do negative actions, and go towards the wrong direction and path. So, all our accumulation if merits can vanish or be destroyed. Therefore, if we don't have a stable mind, we are always at the risk of being attacked by defilements.
In order to subdue or pacify all these negative thoughts and negative actions, physically, we try to abandon all kinds of unnecessary actions. Mentally, we try to avoid unnecessary planning and unnecessary thinking of the future and past. Try to avoid the distractions caused by the body and the distractions caused by the mind.
The main obstacle of meditation Is attachment. Meditators try to subdue their attachment. Within one's capacity, one will try to subdue or reduce as much as one can. Only then will one be more successful when one tries to meditate.
The next is on meditation subjects. According to most Mahayana Sutras or teachings, they advise us to meditate on subduing one's own defilements first. Whatever defilement we have more aggressively, we put an antidote to subdue that defilement first.
If a person has more hatred, he should put every means of practice to develop loving kindness and compassion. That is the antidote of hatred.
If a person has more desire, then practise meditation on the imperfection of samsara and imperfection of the subject of the desire. In that way, one will be able to understand the nature of it and one able to reduce that particular defilement.
If a person has more Ignorance, contemplate on the twelve interdependent links, i.e. every suffering, every samsara experience is caused by ignorance. That ignorance, the confused mind, produces all the kinds of links. Therefore, try to reverse it.
If we try not to be confused, if we try to cut off this ignorance, then we will be able to cut off the rest of the confusions, the rest of the links. If we have more confusions or ignorance, then we should contemplate more on the twelve interdependent links.
Any kind of Samantha meditation is also applicable at this stage. Any method of Samantha meditation can also be practised.
CHAPTER 9 - WISDOM
The 9th Chapter is on Wisdom. We have to develop the perfect Wisdom in order to pacify our sufferings and in order to pacify our ignorance. Therefore we need to develop Wisdom.
Wisdom has two aspects: The Wisdom to understand the Relative Truth and the Wisdom to understand the Ultimate Truth.
Any wisdom that involves concepts is under the Relative Truth. Any wisdom that does not involve concepts is under the Ultimate Truth. There are many different views and different philosophy points, so this is a very difficult subject. Next time, if we have opportunity to explain then we can elaborate on it. I leave it here because it is too difficult.
CHAPTER 10 - DEDICATION
The last chapter is on Dedication. For every good deed or action that we do or complete, we must dedicate it to the good cause. We dedicate for both ultimate and temporary benefit.
Ultimate dedication is to dedicate to oneself for the attainment of Enlightenment so as to benefit all sentient beings.
Temporary dedication is this: "By this merit of my development of wisdom and so on, for a person, any being who is suffering, may they purify their suffering. Those who do not have food to eat, may they obtain food. Those who have no clothes, may they obtain clothes. Those who are in the hot hell, may they have cool showers to make them cool, and those who are in the cold hell, may they have heaters to make them warm.
You can dedicate as broad as you possibly can, for a small amount of merit. This can be very effective and can multiply up to a great extent. Dedication is very important according to the Mahayana Practice.
That completes the "Bodhicaryavatara", which covers the qualities of Bodhicitta, the activities of the Bodhisattvas and how to purify ourselves of gross and subtle defilements.
Geshe Palsang Gyaltso, a Gelupa scholar, gave the commentary of the Bodhicaryavatara". 'The actual "Bodhicaryavatara", without commentary, a direct translation of the Tibetan text, is known as "Entering the Path of Bodhisattvas' Action". In English, it could be written as "The Bodhisattvas' Way of Life". This text, without commentary is quite easy to understand but if you don't understand, you can find a text with commentary. I think there is one.
Let's dedication the merits accumulated through the teaching and listening of this talk to all sentient beings to attain Enlightenment.
with Topga Yulgyal Rinpoche
KIBI, December 1994
Question: Can you tell what is the main principle of Buddhism, and the Vajrayana (the Diamond Way) in particular?
Topga Rinpoche: The main idea of Buddhism is to see the cause of suffering, to put an end to that suffering and to stop it for others as well.
Vajrayana is a method. Basically it has the same goal [as the Mahayana] but the way is different. The Vajrayana has a more direct approach. It is said that the Vajrayana path is shorter than the other Buddhist paths. I would say Vajrayana does not have a special way, but rather it has a different way than other yanas. This does not mean that you do not have to go through the Mahayana process in order to practice Vajrayana. They are very much related to each other. Vajrayana puts more emphasis on initiations, rituals and meditations, which focus not only on the mind, but also involve physical practices such as yogas and so on. Once you have a proper knowledge about Mahayana you can ask a qualified teacher how to approach Vajrayana. It is something one cannot just explain in a minute.
Q: What is the Karma Kagyu Tradition?
TR: The Karma Kagyu tradition started with the first Karmapa. Actually, it is named after him and there is not much difference compared to any other Buddhist school. The main practice in this tradition is Mahamudra(1). One of the texts which describes the basis for the Mahamudra and the Ngondro(2) is The Torch of Certainty by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. Another main text is The Supreme Path, the Necklace of Jewels by Gampopa.
There is also a short text by Gampopa called The Four Dharmas of Gampopa which includes everything:
" How to direct one's mind toward the Dharma
" How to apply the Dharma as one's path
" How to remove illusions
" How to transform illusions into wisdom
No matter how many books you may read on Buddhism they are always concerned with these four points. So, why should we meditate? Without meditation you cannot rely on your own mind. Without meditation you cannot see the cause for suffering. Having understood this, you develop compassion and Bodhicitta (3), but you have to practice. First you have to know that countless beings suffer and really need help. They are sort of at the edge of a cliff which is several thousand feet high, and down below is a very dark sea. So everybody is in danger of falling. If you know that they need help you will have compassion, there is no choice.
Q: What is the main philosophical school in the Karma Kagyu tradition?
TR: The Madhyamaka (4). Within that school the 3rd, 5th and 7th Karmapa emphasized the Shentong (6) view. The 8th Karmapa, emphasized the Prasangika-Madhyamaka(5) school, but Shentong as well, thus embracing both schools. The 16th Karmapa emphasized the Shentong view.
Q: Which methods of practice are used in the Karma Kagyu school?
TR: This depends on the person and his guru. If the guru is in a position to know what kind of student or disciple he has and how his mind works then he can immediately guide him accordingly. Either through a direct approach which will make him understand the Mahamudra view, or by leading him on a longer way through, for example, The Six Yogas of Naropa (7). Both ways are valuable and belong to the Karma Kagyu Tradition, but it depends very much on the guru, it is a very personal thing.
Q: What kind of illusion should be removed?
TR: Any kind of illusion. First, it is good to know what illusion is. Any kind of imagination, any destructive thought is not good for meditation. Through meditation these illusions subside automatically. You don't have to do a particular meditation for the purpose of cutting through illusions and thoughts. Meditation in itself means cutting through them. So there is no difference between cutting through the illusion and meditating. It happens simultaneously.
Q: How does one integrate the Dharma into one's ordinary life?
TR: Most of us have families, friends and responsibilities. I don't think we can avoid that. We cannot just leave families and friends behind, go somewhere and say, "Now I am becoming a Buddha." This probably does not work, but you can meditate while you have family and friends around. We say that all sentient beings are our parents. Maybe you don't accept everybody as your parents, but at least you can accept your own family as your parents. So, out of all countless beings, at least you can take the 5 to 10 people around you and try to help them. This is a practice. Teach them how to meditate, show them the right path, if possible. This is very good, and you have a direct contact with human beings. Theoretically, we can say, "Today I'm doing this or that particular practice and I am going to lead all sentient beings to the Buddhafields tomorrow and the day after tomorrow all of them will be Buddhas and Bodhisattvas". This does not make much sense. But in dealing with your family and friends you are really doing something for people, physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is very good.
Q: Sometimes we have problems in our families because they don't accept us as Buddhist practitioners. What advice can you give?
TR: Maybe they don't accept you because for them you seem to be a kind of fanatic. Maybe they are conservative, they might have different ideas, they might be very materialistic. That's fine, they can have their own view, but you should try to show them that you are not just following a belief, but that you know what you are doing. Communicate this in a nice way, don't fight, don't disapprove and don't be aggressive.
Q: When some people become Buddhist they just want to leave everything behind in order to meditate. But there are many possibilities in life. Others are not sure if they should aim for a career or avoid it. What is your opinion about this?
TR: You should neither leave your job nor your meditation, you can do both together. Treat these two equally at different times. In the morning you may concentrate more on your work, in the evening you may concentrate more on your meditation. I think it will work beautifully. Because whatever you do, it is somehow associated with your meditation, and therefore you won't do negative things like many other people do. It is a very good thing. If you think, "I want to leave the whole world and go somewhere to meditate," then this day will never come. So close that chapter. Do whatever you can, here and now. Of course it depends on one's personality. Concerning yourself, once you know what you are doing then why should you stop? Just go on. But if you don't know what you are doing, then take a break.
Q: Is it possible to cultivate the highest view in one's ordinary life. How does one do this?
TR: Yes, it is possible. You should have a correct view first! The view for Mahamudra is something like Madhyamaka. Through meditation it will develop. The view is intellectually understandable, but since you have not experienced it yet, it is something you have to develop. To experience the view, you go through practices, then you realize it. Finally, one reaches the highest level. However, one cannot point to where the highest level is, because there is no form which indicates it. But, when you reach that level through your own meditation, you will be sort of shocked. You will wonder, "How come I never saw it before, it is within me. It is not that I received it from Russia, China or India, but it is within me, how can it be?"
Q: How can one deal with attachment to wealth, particular principles, pride, and spiritual activity?
TR: When you develop your spiritual power, bad characteristics subside. What is spiritual development? It is mind training through which the ego subsides by itself. When you develop your spiritual mind your unwanted qualities disappear naturally.
(1)Mahamudra: The great seal of reality. Buddha gave this as the ulti-mate/final teaching. It leads to a direct experience of the mind.
(2)Ngondro (Tib.) The four preliminary practices are a collection of four meritorious practices which have to be repeated 100000 times. They create enumerable good impressions in the subconsciousness, and work deeply in one's mind. They are the foundation for Mahamudra practice.
(3)Bodhicitta: Awakened mind. Mental attitude having two aspects. The relative aspect means to perfect oneself for the benefit of all sentient beings. The ultimate aspect is the recognition of the inseparability of emptiness and compassion.
(4)Madhyamaka: The highest philosophical school in Buddhism. Its viewpoint is that ultimate reality is beyond any concept. Phenomena are beyond all pairs of opposites, beyond all extremes.
(5)Prasangika-Madhyamikas: Lit. Those who show the consequence. By showing the consequence of all wrong conceptual ideas they approach ultimate truth.
(6)Shentong: The teachings of the Shentong relate to the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma, where the ultimate reality is called the Buddhanature, which is present within all sentient beings.
(7)Six Yogas of Naropa: Very effective methods of the Kagyu lineage. Their goal is the recognition of the nature of mind. The following meditations are included: inner heat, clear light, dream yoga, illusory body, intermediate state and transference of consciousness.
do we do Prostrations?
1.The Purification of Pride
First of all, we should know why we do prostrations. We do not do them to endear ourselves to somebody else. We do not do them for the Buddha. Such concepts are completely wrong. The Buddha is not a god of this world. We bow down to purify all situations from the past where we did not respect others. Being interested in our own satisfaction and ourselves we did many negative actions.
Prostrations help us realize that there is something more meaningful than ourselves. In this way we purify the pride that we have accumulated through countless lifetimes thinking: "I am right," "I am better than others," or "I am the most important one." During countless lifetimes we have developed pride that is the cause of our actions and have accumulated the karma that is a source of our suffering and problems. The goal of prostrations is to purify this karma and to change our mind set. Prostrations help us rely on something more meaningful than our pride and ego clinging. In this way, through full confidence and devotion, we get rid of everything we have gathered because of pride.
2.The Purification of Body, Speech, and Mind
When we do prostrations we act on the level of body, speech, and mind. The result of doing them is a very powerful and thorough purification. This practice dissolves all impurities, regardless of their kind, because they were all accumulated through our body, speech, and mind. Prostrations purify on all three levels. Through the physical aspect of prostrating we purify our body. We offer our body to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) and to all sentient beings, wishing that all their wishes are fulfilled. Through the repetition of the refuge mantra and the meaning we ascribe to it, we purify our speech. Through confidence in the Three Jewels we develop enlightened attitude and devotion. As we are aware of the perfect qualities of the refuge and offer everything to it, the veils in our minds dissolve. When our body, speech, and mind are being purified we realize that what we initially thought of as our body is actually a manifestation of enlightenment as active compassion. What we initially thought of as our speech is the expression of enlightenment on the level of joy; our mind is the truth level of enlightenment. We are able to see the enlightened reality of our body, speech, and mind - their full of wisdom truth that we initially were not aware of. We realize that this practice can lead us to our goal, enlightenment, because the three levels expressing the state of a Buddha appear immediately after the three levels of our existence - body, speech, and mind - are purified. We do not have to look for enlightenment anywhere else. We do not have to chase any perfect realizations. The three levels of enlightenment are true inherent qualities of our own body, speech, and mind. We did not see it before. Prostrations help us discover it.
3.Physical Benefits of Prostrations
Prostrations strongly influence the balance and harmony in our body. Blocks in its energy channels gradually dissolve. This helps us avoid diseases, lack of energy, and other problems. Our mind becomes clearer. Our ability to understand increases.
The State of Mind During Prostrations
We should do prostrations with full confidence, joy and motivation to benefit others.
We should have confidence in the perfect qualities of the Three Jewels and be sure that their blessing can remove the veils from our minds. The blessing can appear and the purification is effective when our confidence in body, speech, and mind meets the transforming qualities of the enlightened body, enlightened speech and enlightened mind - the sources of the refuge. If we do not have confidence and cannot open up to the Three Jewels prostrations will only be like a play.
2.Motivation to Benefit Others
When we do prostrations we should understand that good actions are the source of happiness of all sentient beings. Prostrations are a good example of this fact. When we do the practice using our body, speech, and mind, we offer our energy to others wishing that it brings them happiness. We should be happy about this fact and do prostrations with joy.
The Proper Practice
1.Visualization of the Refuge TreeIn front of us in space we imagine the whole refuge tree. First, we imagine Dorje Chang - the lama who represents all sources of the refuge. We imagine the lama as the center of the refuge tree. We should be fully aware that Dorje Chang is our teacher and that he is the mind of our lama. We think about Dorje Chang to make sure that the manifestation of the nature of mind is not stained by our habitual thoughts. To help us keep the pure view, the view of wisdom, we imagine this perfectly pure form. At the same time we keep awareness that Dorje Chang is the mind of our lama. Everything that appears in front of us in space is like a rainbow or a reflection in a mirror; it is not a thing. If we have difficulties visualizing the whole refuge tree we should have confidence that all objects of the refuge are really in front of us even if we cannot hold them in our mind.
2.Awareness of Ourselves and Others
We are not alone in our practice. We are surrounded by all beings that fill the whole universe. We imagine our father on our right side and our mother on our left. When we stand between our parents from this life we realize that each and every being without exception has been our parent in some previous life. This helps us remember the goodness of all our parents, all sentient beings, who were helping us during countless lifetimes.
We imagine the ones we consider our enemies in front of us, between the refuge tree and ourselves. We think of the people who cause us problems and obstruct the realization of our plans. All these people are very important because they help us develop such qualities as patience and compassion. We usually want to avoid such people. We try to stay away from them. We do not want to think about them. Putting them in front of us helps us not to forget them. Treating enemies in such a way protects us against disrespecting them.
We focus our attention on the refuge tree. We are confident that the refuge can free all sentient beings from the suffering of samsara and it can protect us against the anxiety that this suffering causes. In such a mind-set, surrounded by all sentient beings, we start to repeat the refuge mantra. Everything around us starts to vibrate. We experience strong light from the refuge tree. The light shines on us because of our own devotion. This makes us open up even more. Then we start to bow down. We are the masters of the ceremony and lead the whole practice. Our prostrations immediately inspire all beings to begin doing the same practice. We hear all beings repeating mantras and doing prostrations. These vibrations fill the whole universe.
Holding such a vision rather than concentrating only on ourselves widens our activity. On the one hand it gives us strength, on the other hand it gives us motivation to practice. All beings doing prostrations with us give us encouragement. Experiencing great amounts of energy from all beings doing prostrations, we feel even more confidence in and devotion to the Three Jewels. The feeling of "riding with the crowd" helps us finish prostrations quickly and experience great happiness during the practice.
3.The Symbolic Meaning of Each Element in the Act of Bowing Down
To give the ultimate dimension to our practice we should be aware of the symbolic meaning of a prostration. Touching our forehead with clasped hands, we ask the objects of the refuge for the blessing of their bodies. At the same time we imagine that the blessing of their enlightened bodies radiates on us, goes through our body and dissolves all its obscurations. Then our clasped hands touch our throat. We ask for the blessing of speech. At the same time we think that the blessing of their enlightened speech emanates from the objects of the refuge and purifies all obscurations that we have accumulated through our speech. In such a way we free ourselves from these obscurations. When we touch our heart with clasped hands we ask the refuge for the blessing of their enlightened mind. It helps us get rid of all veils and wrong views in our minds. We are confident that all evil wishes we have been filling our minds with since beginningless time are completely purified. We should think that we are getting the full blessing of enlightened body, speech, and mind from the Three Jewels. Through the power of this blessing, all veils, bad karma, and negative tendencies in our body, speech, and mind are purified. We are completely pure and inseparable from the body, speech, and mind of the lama and the Three Jewels.
When our body touches the ground with its five points (knees, hands, forehead) we should realize that five disturbing emotions - anger, attachment, ignorance, pride, and jealousy - leave our body and disappear in the earth. In such a way we experience complete purification.
The two aspects of prostrations, dissolving the mind's poisons and getting the blessing from the Three Jewels, cause the transformation of pride, attachment, jealousy, anger, and ignorance into the five corresponding wisdoms. We should be confident that the transformation is actually taking place, that we have the natural, inherent ability to develop these wisdoms.
This symbolic aspect of prostrations will work only if we have confidence. Our confidence can give us this big purification. Practicing without confidence is just like aerobic exercise.
4.The Significance of Devotion
Our devotion will grow the more prostrations we do. Finally, we will reach the level where we will no longer think that our body, speech, and mind are any different from the body, speech, and mind of the Three Jewels. Prostrations give a wonderful result; they are the source of a very powerful blessing and a great purification. We should not think that prostrations consist only of an activity of our body. The blessing and purification appear mainly because of our devotion.
5.Increasing the Strength of Our Practice
We practice with an open mind. We should not think that we are the only person doing prostrations. All beings are doing them with us. We do not have to limit our thinking only to ourselves. We should not assert ourselves by thinking, "I am bowing down." If we think like that we accumulate good potential that corresponds to the act of doing one prostration. If we think of all sentient beings doing prostrations with us, the good potential we accumulate is much bigger. When we are doing prostrations we should think that a hundred of our emanations are doing them with us. If we are able to imagine that our practice will be much stronger. We should not count more prostrations if we imagine more beings doing them with us. This is only one of the special Vajrayana methods that help us strengthen our practice.
6.Linking the Prostrations with Calming the Mind
After a while our body will be tired. This is a useful moment to practice calming the mind. When the body and mind are tired, attachment decreases. If we stop doing prostrations for a moment our mind will naturally calm down by itself without any additional help on our side. When after a while our body and mind feel rested again, our mind becomes agitated. This is the sign to start prostrations again. When we alternate doing prostrations with calming the mind we can practice ceaselessly.
The Approach to Suffering
Sometimes we might experience difficulties doing prostrations. Pain and fatigue will be in our way. There is always some concern: pain in our knees, elbows, lower back, everywhere. There is no reason to be discouraged by it or lose confidence in our practice. Neither should we strengthen the feeling by saying to ourselves, "I suffer so much, I feel so weak." By doing this we completely block ourselves. We lose the ability to act. When the pain is allowed to "have a say," it can become a real obstacle on the path of our further practice. We should use every unpleasant experience, whether physical or mental, as a means to get enlightened. Such experiences should mobilize us toward greater effort on our path.
Everything we experience depends on the state of mind we are in. If we want to experience things differently we must change the state of our mind. If we manage to efficiently transform suffering into a positive and beneficial experience, the suffering will disappear completely without a trace. This will give us more happiness and joy.
Prostrations are a way of accumulating truly good potential. They are an easy and effective way to purify negative actions from our past. On the other hand, if - due to pain and fatigue - we continue prostrations being depressed, true purification does not take place.
The Techniques of Working with Unpleasant Experiences
1.Depletion of Karma
We should not think of suffering as something very serious. We should remember that suffering is just karma, that it is impermanent like everything else. Suffering has its end. When our karma ripens we should remain relaxed and observe this natural flow of things. If we manage to infuse our practice with the understanding of the impermanence of karma, it will dissolve by itself. Karma is not something we have to accept or reject. It is like the obligation to pay our bills which appears automatically. When we have paid our debts karma dissolves by itself and there is nothing to reject.
2.Purification of Karma through Physical Indisposition
Dharma practice eliminates veils and stains that are results of our former actions. We should perceive the physical indisposition that we experience during the practice as the result of the compassion of the Three Jewels. This relatively small suffering dissolves future karma which will not ripen. For this reason we should experience this suffering with joy and confidence. Such unpleasant experiences indicate that the practice works. The use of purifying methods may result in many unpleasant experiences on the level of body, speech, and mind. At the same time, we are getting rid of difficulties and veils in our minds. As we experience purification as a result of our practice, our confidence in the Three Jewels increases. We feel deep gratitude because these relatively small nuisances help free us from conditions that would otherwise ripen as much greater suffering.
3.Noticing Ego-Clinging through Suffering
We should regard every suffering as an antidote to ego clinging. Experiencing one's own suffering is in itself a proof of our egocentric attitude towards all phenomena. At the same time, such situations (where we experience suffering) give us the possibility to get rid of our ego clinging. If we have no ego-illusion we can experience no suffering. We should also understand the cause of our suffering: we experience it because of our former actions which resulted from our ego clinging. Being so focused on ourselves, we have sown many karmic seeds which have now ripened as suffering. We can treat suffering as a teaching showing us the results of actions that result from being focused on oneself. From beginningless time this ego clinging has been the cause of us being caught in the cycle of existence (samsara).
4.Observing Our Ego
Ego wants to be satisfied all the time. As long as everything is all right our ego is content and tries to keep this state. Our "self" clings to this contentment and our mind is distressed with desire - the poison of attachment. When nice circumstances are gone, ego still clings to them because it wants to be content. More attachment and desire appear in our mind. In the cases of unpleasant situations the ego reacts with anger and hatred. It tries to avoid them and replace them with pleasant experiences. In this way our mind is anxious and unhappy. We can recognize the continuous influence of ego in every situation. It ceaselessly categorizes experiences as pleasant or unpleasant. If we follow our ego we accumulate karma which will sooner or later ripen as different kinds of suffering.
5.Unpleasant Experiences as a Test of Our Perseverance
We should remember about our promise to use our body, speech, and mind for the benefit of others. Knowing that we work for the benefit of all beings we should keep our promise, subdue our internal difficulties, and continue our practice.
Translation from the Polish magazine Diamentowa Droga (Diamond Way) by Peter Piasecki and Susan Bixby from Calgary, Canada.
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.5, 1998
Copyright ©1998 Kamtsang Choling USA
Ole Nydahl talks about Death, Rebirth and the Power of Phowa
The following interview
was conducted by Tony Dylan Davis in March 1994 in Calgary, Canada
Tony: One of the greatest fascinations of mankind is death and what survives death. All kinds of religions have been founded upon insurance policies for the afterlife. One of your topics in Calgary was death and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism and I know it's an enormous subject and we can't hope to cover the whole thing, but perhaps a capsule view for the relatively uninitiated would help.
Ole: It's all based on an understanding of the nature of the mind itself. If we look at mind, it clearly has two sides. There is an experiencer and something which is experienced, an ocean and many waves, a mirror and its pictures. One finds both awareness and that of which one is aware. Mind is both. An examination of what looks through our eyes and listens through our ears shows the observer to be of the nature of space. As it has neither color, weight, smell, size nor form, mind is definitely not a thing. At the same time, there is a clarity which can know and understand, having no limit or end.
An essence which is open, clear, and limitless must be beyond birth or death. As it has never been assembled, it can never fall apart. Though mind is all-pervading and indestructible, very rarely do people notice their underlying nature. Non-meditators mainly know it from their moments of greatest joy, like in love-making, during the free fall in bungee jumping, or before the parachute opens and makes things ordinary again. The rest of the time, people are lost among their changing experiences. Their life is the feelings and thoughts inside and the world outside, both of which of course change constantly. All think that they are a "me," or a "person," that they have a "self," an "ego," an "atman" or something else which their habitual mind perceives as real, but if they look for it, it cannot be found. There's no particle in the body which stays and neither do any conditioned thoughts or feelings. Only the clear light of awareness lasts, which is the same in you, me, and everybody else. Although this is evident, until enlightenment people experience the pictures in the mirror, not its reflective power. They lose themselves among their experiences, and have little awareness of the experiencer.
The understanding that everything conditioned is transient, however, doesn't mean that it has no relative value. Causality functions, creating inner and outer worlds and though nothing stays the same, there is a continuity. Nothing physical or mental remains from the time one was a child through to the time one is later a man, but without the former there would be no latter. One event conditions the next and when the body dies, the sense-basis and object of identification for this flow of experience is lost.
Though quick or slow deaths may appear to be very different, exactly the same process occurs. First, awareness recedes from the skin and other outer sense organs, into the central inner energy channel or magnetic plus-minus axis in the body. While consciousness diminishes, one loses control of the solid and fluid parts of the body, its heat and breath. Then, gradually, the energies from the crown and bottom centers come together at the heart center while the mind has strong experiences of clarity and joy. About twenty to thirty minutes after having breathed out the last time, there is total blackness after which a very clear light appears in the heart center. At that time, people have a unique chance. If they have meditated a lot, have kept their Buddhist bonds and have stayed honest to themselves, there is a chance to recognize and hold this light, making them in fact enlightened. Then, there's no separation between space and awareness inside and outside and one is boundless. All personal limitations have fallen away and one can take countless rebirths in countless universes with many amazing powers to help others.
If, however, beings become unconscious because the light is too strong - as is mostly the case - this unconscious condition lasts for about three days and upon reawakening, one usually neither knows nor wants to know that one is dead. For about a week, mind remains in the continuation of one's most recent life. One goes to places and people one knew but of course they cannot see one. It is also very confusing that due to the lack of a body, one immediately appears at whichever place one thinks of.
Ten days after death, after a week in this situation, one finally recognizes that one is dead. This experience is such a shock that one faints again, and when mind surfaces from this second bout of unconsciousness, the habitual world is gone and one's subconscious comes alive. Deeply stored impressions appear, and within not more than five and a half weeks they mature into a fixed psychological structure, expressing the strongest mental tendency developed during one's last life.
Whether this may be pride or jealousy, attachment or anger, greed or confusion, it colors the mind and at the same time draws it to beings and places which correspond to its content. Thus good actions produce pleasant rebirths in favorable countries and harmful ones bring about the suffering so prevalent in most of the world today.
It has always been like that. Mind moves ceaselessly after death until finding the right slot brings it to a passing but unconscious state of peace. Then it awakens and starts projecting again, as it has since beginningless time. It produces both the countless universes and beings' varying mental states, and mind will remain attached to what is actually its own free play until it recognizes itself to be unborn clear light. When awareness is experienced whether it has any objects or not, the timeless goal has been reached.
Tony:I suppose the question that springs to mind is: how do you know this?
Ole: I know it for several reasons, both personal and general. Shall I give some details? OK. First, I belong to the group of people who have independent proof of memories from their former lives. I am not saying I was an angel but I had great friends, exquisite women and much fun in my past lives. I was mainly fighting Chinese soldiers to protect the civilian population of Eastern Tibet. Already at an age of 2-3 years in Denmark during the war, I had recurrent dreams of fighting soldiers with round faces and protecting men in gowns. This is how I then interpreted the monks robes I saw. I had never seen mountains, they don't exist in Denmark at all, but I still drew pictures detailing how to take out snipers on the steep rocky slopes. My own Lama, the 16th Karmapa called me Mahakala (a Buddhist protector) and Dharma-General and I was born with some signs on my body which are supposed to signify former protective deeds. In 1986, on a secret tour across Eastern Tibet to places where no white man has ever been, my lovely wife Hannah and myself recognized places we knew from our last life, like the village where our main Lama, the 16th Karmapa, was born and where we must have spent time with him. In Bhutan, I had similar experiences. Among other things, I must have helped repulse the Mongolian troops during a great battle in 1642. Actually, I'm more a program than a person and hardly have any private or complicated stuff in my life. I seem to have deeply promised to express certain activities when I'm in this world and these I joyfully fulfill. Protecting and developing beings on all levels, is constantly on my mind.
Secondly, there are other, less personal reasons. Several people have come to me after they died. Real ones - spirits, spooks or whatever we call them in the West. Though some appeared hours earlier than the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes, whatever else happened to them fits completely with its teachings.
Also, Hannah and I received many explanations from living teachers of amazing insight like Karmapa, whose seventeenth incarnation Thaye Dorje was introduced to the public in Delhi in March 1994. His sixteenth rebirth was highly visionary. For no conceivable reasons, he would often know things and frequently simply state who was now driving away from their home and when they would arrive. He always knew what people were thinking and would frequently recognize former incarnations. He confirmed me as a Buddhist protector and stated after my father died that he was in a pure land. He is a major reason I feel I am an expert on death and rebirth.
The place this certainty touches many is through the hundreds of Phowa courses, where people learn how to die consciously. I've taught the practice since 1987, mainly in Western countries but also in Singapore and Japan. About 22,000 people - all but a handful of those who took part - had the full result. In a four to five day intensive meditation seminar, the Buddha of Limitless Light (Amitabha) blesses the practitioners and they receive outer, inner and secret signs of success, proof that they will reach a pure land at death. The signs are very convincing. One receives a small opening through the skull which produces a visible sign on the top of one's head, strong experiences of joy and purification and a growing understanding of what really matters in life and death. People agree that life after Phowa is both different and much better. A high percentage experience leaving their bodies and most reach states of great bliss. To the best of my knowledge, this meditation only exists in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tony: How did you gain the authority to do this kind of work?
Ole: Several conditions came together and especially it was the wish of the Karmapa, the first incarnate Lama of Tibet. He first connected us to a Lama from a closely affiliated lineage, a true expert on the subject. Since 1987, important teachers of our lineage like Kunzig Shamarpa, Lopön Tsechu Rinpoche, Tenga Rinpoche and recently also the 17th Karmapa, Thaye Dorje, asked me to transmit it to all with a wish to learn, and the results have been extraordinary.
Tony: When I took courses in Buddhism at a University, I think one of the areas which people had the most difficulty with was the idea of personality.....
Ole: Not having it!
Ole: You've got to trust space! If you discover personality to be an illusion, your only chance is trusting the richness of space. You can't rely on anything in the past or the future.
Tony: Then a Westerner would turn around and ask, who's doing the trusting?
Ole: Mind has all kinds of qualities, including the feeling of confidence. Such powers don't need to be anything personal, however. Mind has radiance, compassion, feeling and energy. It can remember, hope, dream and invent. One may compare it to a jewel with many shiny sides all of which are fantastic. The problem is when some of these qualities - always the emotionally charged ones - try to control everything else. Things get very tight when an illusory self behaves like a colonel in a banana republic, and forces some sentimental program or pride program to be enacted. Such a situation is totally different from the open condition where the inherent qualities of mind spontaneously unfold. When conditions are natural, sometimes mind feels, then it creates, then it remembers, then it's artistic. Without the fat rider of ego holding it down, all things will be perfect as they come.
Tony: Don't you think people for the most part associate who they are, for example, what will survive death, with the ego?
Ole: Adherents of faith-religions think they need an ego because they've been told they cannot trust their minds. That's the brainwash about original sin. It makes people unable to simply be. They think they have to keep control because otherwise they might find themselves with some child on their bayonet, or stealing something, or looking into the girl's locker room or saying something strange. Faith-religions manipulate people to distrust their deepest nature, while Buddhism as a religion of experience, teaches the complete opposite. It says, "Truth is all-pervading and you are all buddhas, who haven't discovered it yet. Your timeless essence is fearlessness and joyful compassion." That's the difference between working with faith and with experience. Religions that employ pressure from outer entities and work with fear and sin, instill a disturbed relationship to one's basic nature. Where the goal is fulfillment of mind's potential, however, things are easy. Living one's greatness is the way to benefit all beings.
Tony: The word that never pops into these discussions is the term "God," which is central in virtually every other religion.
Ole: We don't use it. It creates an unnecessary duality which one would have to dismantle later. We see gods as conditioned beings, who are not enlightened and though Buddhism knows of many gods, we prefer to keep a safe distance. We wish them everything good, of course, but do not get involved unless they might come to learn. To understand why, one needs only to examine their words. Gods are pompous, humorless, and some, like Allah, are clearly unfit for civilized societies. Most have character problems. Some are jealous; some are vengeful, none have found peace in their own essence. They all have visible egos and frequently display irrational behavior. They want beings to do this, and not to do that. They're frequently very difficult customers and if one wouldn't want bearers of such qualities as our neighbors, it would be unwise to take them as gods. I know that many people don't like to be confronted with such views and given the mental levels of their followers and the political situations at their times, the gods should also be given the benefits of any doubt. There is no way to ignore their statements in their ancient but still authorized texts; however, the way they still motivate the behavior of their followers today brings so much suffering. As any reader of intelligent newspapers will know, they suppress the greater part of the world's women and regularly erupt into strange and harmful actions even when kept under constant surveillance.
Mind's full development, on the other hand, its clear light and radiant awareness, its consciousness endowed with every freedom to feel, question and do - this is perfect. Rest in that and avoid the personal, difficult, and unclear. Go straight to the radiant, compassionate joy which is always satisfactory.
Tony: How do you do that?
Ole: First, find your nearest Buddhist center from the directory or one of my books. Or call the San Francisco center (415-661 6467). Ask my noble idealistic students for the teachings and meditations used, put forth your bright questions and try to take part whenever you can. This constitutes a broad, powerful way to grow.
Then one will gradually evaluate things less and rest more in the clear space of one's mind. To utilize even a few free moments, one may think of a Buddha sitting above one's head, falling into one's heart and shining from there to benefit all beings. Also, other near-instantaneous meditations will produce a state of surplus to be shared with others. The important thing, at least in Diamond Way Buddhism, is to "behave like a Buddha until you become a Buddha." Be the best you can until it's second nature, and then act from there.
Tony: So there's no sense of getting control of anything that you are talking about here. When we talk about looking at the mind and examining the mind, there's always a gnawing suspicion that what you are doing is going in there to control what happens.
Ole: No. Conscious living is about KNOWING inner processes, it's not about controlling them. As we already agreed, the experience of mind is fearlessness, joy, and active compassion, so nothing can disturb our true essence. What most surprises new students is that one's advance towards enlightenment is not so much characterized by the fact that good thoughts become more and bad thoughts become less. As mind is a feedback-mechanism, this may happen simply through positive thinking or pleasant surroundings. The important thing is that thoughts don't matter very much. As the radiance of the mirror increases, its pictures become less important. Attachment, both positive and negative, to the objects of awareness decreases as mind's timeless power is felt. In the here-and-now state of co-emergent wisdom all experience arises fresh, joyful, and true in its deepest essence.
Tony: How do we do this? How do we live this way?
Ole: Be spontaneous and effortless. Feel at home in life. Consider the best in beings their true essence while not overestimating what they can handle right now. Of course, it's a gradual process. We'll probably always need jails for the heavy cases. We'll still need policemen, but it would be nice to see more in the ghettos and less on the roads, where traffic regulates itself, anyway. Important is the view that people can be perfected. If people would train themselves to experience space more as a container we are all inside of and less as nothingness or something lacking, which separates us, much would be gained.
Tony: In a few words, what is your goal?
Ole: What I really want is to make as many people as possible recognize that their mind is clear light, help them understand that feeling fear is a complete mistake because their essence can never be harmed. I would dearly like to start a landslide of robust, humorous and critical awareness of life's potential. To lead ever more people to find real confidence, truth and happiness in themselves and empower them to share it. That's why I write my books; that's what I have done every evening for the last 24 years at my lectures. That's why we've started 180 groups for Diamond Way Buddhism so far around the world and the reason I've been in a new town every day since then. In increasing numbers, year by year, more and more close friends of mine work for that vision. We know Karma Kagyu Buddhism brings results, that the methods recently brought from Tibet are highly effective. They work with causes and not effects, are neither sentimental nor stiff. The lineage has a wide variety of methods and our success at shaking off Communist Chinese strangleholds and freeing Thaye Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, has even increased its taste of freedom. He is developing amazingly and it is a great joy.
Tony: And when will we be visibly closer to that goal?
Ole: The day people will say a hundred OM MANI PEME HUNG or KARMAPA CHENNO mantras as naturally as they now pop an aspirin. The more we put in, the more we get out. Everything needed is there. If we choose to join the independent intelligence of Western countries with the unbroken power of the lineage, there will be amazing developments and much good will appear in the world!
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.2, 1996
Copyright ©1996 Kamtsang Choling USA
An Interview with Shamar Rinpoche, Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, France
The KKÖ-INFO is a quarterly magazine of Karma Kagyu Austria.
Kkö-info: What is important to Dharma practitioners in the West?
Rinpoche: In order to practice Buddhism it is most important to learn for yourself. There are different ways of approaching the Dharma. If a worldly person occupied with his profession or family wants a simple daily practice, then a limited understanding of Buddhism is sufficient. But if you want to get into it with some depth and to practice extensively, then you should become quite familiar with the teachings. After having studied intensively and analyzed Buddha's teachings, you must connect what you have learned with meditation, so it becomes real experience. Buddhism is a vast and rich field of knowledge. It is not just a religion of belief. Therefore to learn the Dharma properly takes a long time.
Kkö-info: Many people don't have the time for intensive studies or long retreat. How can people best study and practice in normal daily life?
Rinpoche: Concerning study, one should gain a basic knowledge of Madhyamaka, and about the empowerments and their significance. Concerning meditation, it is always good to practice as much as possible. There were and still are successful practitioners who meditate at home, without going into long retreat.
First learn as much as you can about basic Dharma in order to be able to meditate properly. If you proceed this way, especially in the West where people tend to be more secure in old age, you could have the opportunity to practice intensively later on in life, because you will have created the basis for it over your lifetime.
Kkö-info:In order to gain knowledge we need teachers we can have faith in. How does this faith develop?
Rinpoche: Faith comes from knowledge. If you have no knowledge of the path, it is impossible to have real faith. Faith means knowing the way, having faith in your own knowledge. If you study intensively, faith appears spontaneously.
For example, a blind person needs a guide whom he must trust completely. If you prefer to be blind you will always need a guide. But if you do not want to be blind, you should learn to see. Gradually you can open your eyes and learn to trust your way of seeing and walking along the path. To need a teacher does not mean that you have to hang onto him like a blind person to his seeing-eye dog.
Kkö-info: What do you really mean by this example?
Rinpoche: I am talking about people who when they meet the Dharma become extremists and turn into groupies. They run around in tee shirts printed with OM MANI PEME HUNG mantras. They would love to slip into the skin of their teacher. They even try to sound like their teacher, to imitate him in a certain way.
In Buddhism a natural human understanding is important. In Tibet there is a saying for this, "A first class businessman when learning the Dharma will also be a first class practitioner." A businessman possesses practical understanding and clear thinking, so necessary for Buddhist practice.
Kkö-info: How should one follow one's teacher?
Rinpoche: You should respect and feel gratitude towards your teacher. If you do follow a teacher you should be persistent. You should also be careful that when you have gathered profound knowledge you don't leave your teacher behind. This would bring negative results. For example, after you've learned a language, you would not be rude to your teacher and not say hello to him anymore. You actually owe a lot to that person.
Kkö-info: How can one judge which qualities a teacher really has?
Rinpoche: People initially thought that all Tibetan monks were very learned. Their robes impressed many westerners. But most monks are not very learned. To learn properly requires formal education. In Tibet wearing robes was a cultural tradition. Everyone who wears robes is not necessarily enlightened.
Dharma practitioners need real qualified teachers who have completed their education. They don't necessarily have to be monks; they can be learned lay practitioners. In order to avoid obstacles when learning the Dharma one should follow the teachings instead of the teacher. One should know enough to act correctly even with an imperfect teacher. It is possible to follow the teachings more closely as a student than the teacher does himself, if this teacher correctly transmits the contents but does not live according to their meaning.
A teacher worthy of trust should have particularly great knowledge and compassion. In the Vajrayana the teacher should actually be enlightened. Faith can therefore develop in such a teacher who possesses those qualities, but it is also very important to develop faith through study.
Kkö-info: Is it possible to check on one's teacher?
Rinpoche: If one has a thorough knowledge of Vajrayana philosophy, you can check on your teacher. You can look at their education and the transmissions they received, and to what extent these were practiced. It is similar to a university. You can find out how good a professor is in his field; you can ask other students or teachers for references. In this way one can check on the knowledge of a teacher. However, the quality of a teacher's meditation can only be judged if you have developed meditation yourself. And therefore it is necessary first to become intimately familiar with the Dharma.
Kkö-info: What is the connection between Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, and Vajrayana, the Diamond Way?
Rinpoche: You cannot talk about a relationship or connection between Mahayana and Vajrayana, because a relationship can only exist between two separate things. Mahayana and Vajrayana cannot be separated; they are not two different things. The practice of Vajrayana is completely based on Mahayana. This can be demonstrated with examples. If you meditate in the Vajrayana on some Buddha aspects, they arise in the visualization from inseparable compassion and emptiness. Emptiness is not just a black hole and compassion does not mean our normal emotional feelings we share with each other. What then do emptiness and compassion really mean? Both terms are precisely explained in the Mahayana. You need the foundation of the Mahayana in order to understand and correctly apply the methods of the Vajrayana. Suppose a letter HRIH symbolizing the true nature of mind appears; these qualities are described in the Mahayana. In that way, through examples, it becomes clear that Mahayana and Vajrayana are inseparable from each other.
Kkö-info: Does that mean there is no Vajrayana without the foundation of Mahayana?
Rinpoche: Yes, they are completely inseparable. There is nothing in the Vajrayana you could remove and practice independently from the view and meditation of Mahayana. The methods of the Vajrayana are based on Mahayana and are like a fertilizer that accelerates development. The Vajrayana indeed offers additional tools, but never departs from Mahayana view.
BUDDHISM TODAY, Vol.4, 1998
Copyright ©1998 Kamtsang Choling USA
Through Hearing in the Bardo
by Guru Rinpoche
Verses on the Bardo from the Six Wonderful Methods
for Enlightenment Without Cultivation
Here I shall explain the profound meaning of liberation through hearing for the
one who has
reached the time of death. Among the three kinds of bardos, the first is the time of the bardo
Fortunate one of noble family, listen one-pointedly with mindfulness and no
distraction. Whatever appears in this world is the dream-like deception of Mara.
Everything impermanent is subject to death. Noble one, abandon suffering!
The experiences of whiteness, redness and blackness are all the magical
display of your mind. These appearances are nothing other than yourself.
Don't be afraid or shocked.
Now it seems that you are losing consciousness. Outer appearances resemble
the sky at dawn. Inner experience resembles a butter lamp in a vase. Remain
one-pointedly in the clarity of non-thought. This luminosity of death is buddha
mind itself. Rest naturally without fabricating or distorting anything. Noble one,
in this way you will be liberated into dharmakaya.
Give this advice in a pleasant and clear manner. Those of the highest capacity will be liberated
through this. Now comes the second bardo of dharmata.
Fortunate one of noble family, listen with undistracted, one-pointed mindfulness.
Earlier, you did not recognize awareness. For the next seven days, all experiences
will arise as rainbows, lights, rays, spheres and as the bodies of deities. All are the
magical display of the means and knowledge of the five buddhas. Do not be afraid
or terrified by the brilliant colors and lights. Resolve that they are your own
Together with these lights dull colored lights will also appear and attract your
mind. Do not be attached to them. They are the self-display of the five poisons,
the pathways of samsara. Your experience will arise as pure and impure paths,
so do not miss the right path to be chosen.
From the heart centers of the male and female buddhas of the five families,
shafts of light reach your eyes. This is the great, direct path of Vajrasattva.
Quietly abide in awareness and pray, "Look upon me with compassion!"
Supplicate with intense yearning. Without accepting or rejecting, without sending
away or holding on to anything, maintain the state in which the appearances
of deities are inseparable from yourself. At that time, as one deity dissolves
into another, you will be liberated into sambhogakaya.
Listen fortunate one! If you are not liberated now, know that time does not change
though phenomena does. Everywhere in the four cardinal and four intermediate
directions, above and below, amidst a roaring mass of flames and rainbow colors is
the Great and Glorious Heruka. His assembly of deities and terrifying attendants rain
down sharp weapons, HUNG, PHAT and laughter. This fiery spectacle of immense
variety makes one billion world systems tremble.
Without being afraid or terrified, recognize everything as the display of your
awareness. Be firm in this and rest while mingling inseparably with the natural
state. Having entered the path, you will be liberated.
In this way, those of the middle capacity are liberated. Thirdly, during the bardo of becoming,
say to the dead person:
Listen, child of noble family. Maintain mindfulness and do not be distracted. Your
body is now comprised of prana and mind. Around it the appearances of the bardo
of becoming arise. Knowing you are dead, you long to be alive. You are caught
by the fierce servants of the Lord of the Dead. Frightening sounds and steep defiles
appear along with many definite and indefinite signs. All this is the manifestation of
your mind, which is ultimately empty like the sky. Space cannot be harmed by space.
Therefore, develop unconditioned confidence.
This consecrated substance, burnt and offered, is an inexhaustible feast, the
food of undefiled liberation through hearing. Partake of it, and without attachment
to being alive turn with longing to your yidam and master.
To the west of here is the Blissful Realm where Lord Amitabha dwells. Whoever
recalls his name will be born there. You, too, while recalling his name, should
make prayers. Generate devotion, thinking, "Care for me, Lokeshvara and Guru
Rinpoche!" Free of doubt, move with a spontaneous vajra leap. In that buddhafield,
within the hollow of a lotus bud, you will be swiftly and miraculously born. Therefore,
noble one, with delight and joy give rise to devotion.
Those of the lowest capacity are liberated like this. If not, now comes the way of liberation
once one has passed through to rebirth.
Listen, child of noble family. Since you have not closed the door to the womb,
when you see a log, a hollow space, a dark place, a forest or a palace, abandon
desire and clinging.
Make up your mind to be born on the earth and specifically in Tibet1 in the
presence of your teacher.
Visualize your future parents, from a religious family, as Guru Rinpoche and his
consort. Abandon desire or anger, and with faith enter the state of composure.
Having become a vessel for the profound Dharma, you will swiftly attain wisdom.
Through these gradual instructions, no matter how low one's capacity may be, one will
certainly be liberated within seven rebirths.
Draw the session to a close with the dedication and aspiration prayers and rest in the
natural state of the pure nature of all phenomena.
A deeply profound instruction such as this does not require cultivation, but liberates
This teaching was extracted from a text in Vol. 1 of the Chokling Tersar, called Sheldam
Nyingjang, The Essence Manual of Oral Instructions.
1. This was 100 years ago. Today the aspiration must be aimed at any place where the
Vajrayana teachings are available.
Your master and the Three Jewels are the best escort, so earnestly take refuge.
To practice the Dharma is what helps your state of mind the most. Remember what
you have heard , since the Dharma is the most trustworthy.
No matter which teaching you practice, give up feeling sleepy, lethargic and lazy. Instead, don the armour of diligence. No matter which teaching you have comprehended, don't separate yourself from its meaning.
Do like this if you want to practice true Dharma! Keep your master's oral instructions in mind. Don't conceptualise your experience , as it just makes you attached or angry. Day and night, look into your mind. If your stream of mind contains any nonvirtue , renounce it from the core of your heart and pursue virtue.
Moreover, when you see other people committing evil, feel compassion for them. It is entirely possible that you will feel attachment to or aversion for certain sense objects. Give that up. When you feel attachment towards something attractive or aversion towards something repulsive, understand that to be your mind's delusion, nothing but a magical illusion."
GURU RINPOCHE ( PADMASAMBHAVA)
or Calm Abiding
A Dzogchen Teaching
By Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
All yogic and spiritual disciplines include some form of practice that develops concentration and quiets the mind. In the Tibetan tradition this practice is called calm abiding (zhine). We recognize three stages in the development of stability: forceful zhine, natural zhine, and ultimate zhine. Zhine begins with mental fixation on an object and, when concentration is strong enough, moves on to fixation without an object.
Begin the practice by sitting comfortably on a chair or in the five-pointed meditation posture: the legs crossed, the hands folded in the lap in meditation position with palms up and placed one on top of the other, the spine straight but not rigid, the head tilted down slightly to straighten the neck, and the eyes open. The eyes should be relaxed, not too wide open and not too closed. The object of concentration should be placed so that the eyes can look straight ahead, neither up nor down. During the practice try not to move, not even to swallow or blink, while keeping the mind one pointedly on the object. Even if tears should stream down your face, do not move. Let the breathing be natural.
Generally, for practice with an object, Zhine practitioners use the Tibetan letter A as the object of concentration. This letter has many symbolic meanings but here is used simply as a support for the development of focus. Other objects may also be used - the letter A of the English alphabet, or any other sacred image, the sound of a mantra, the breath - almost anything. However, it is good to use something connected to the sacred, as it serves to inspire you. Also, try to use the same object each time you practice, rather than switching between objects, because the continuity acts as a support of the practice. It is also somewhat preferable to focus on a physical object that is outside the body, as the purpose is to develop stability during the perception of external objects and, eventually, of the objects in dream.
If you wish to use the Tibetan "A" you can write it on a piece of paper about an inch square. Traditionally, the letter is white and is enclosed in five concentric colored circles: the center circle that is the direct background for the "A" is indigo; around it is a blue circle, then green, red, yellow, and white ones. Tape the paper to a stick that is just long enough to support the paper at eye level when you sit for practice, and make a base that holds it upright. Place it so that the "A" is about a foot and a half in front of your eyes.
Many signs of progress can arise during the practice. As concentration strengthens and the periods of practice are extended, strange sensations arise in the body and many strange visual phenomena appear. You may find your mind doing strange things, too! That is all right. These experiences are a natural part of the development of concentration; they arise as the mind settles, so be neither disturbed by nor excited about them.
The first stage of practice is called "forceful" because it requires effort. The mind is easily and quickly distracted, and it may seem impossible to remain focused on the object for even a minute. In the beginning, it is helpful to practice in numerous short sessions alternating with breaks. Do not let the mind wander during the break, but instead recite a mantra, or work with visualization, or work with another practice you may know, such as the development of compassion. After the break, return to the fixation practice. If you are ready to practice but do not have the particular object you have been using, visualize a ball of light on your forehead and center yourself there. The practice should be done once or twice a day, and can be done more frequently if you have the time. Developing concentration is like strengthening the muscles of the body: exercise must be done regularly and frequently. To become stronger keep pushing against your limits.
Keep the mind on the object. Do not follow the thoughts of the past or the future. Do not allow the attention to be carried away by fantasy, sound, physical sensation, or any other distraction. Just remain in the sensuality of the present moment, and with your whole strength and clarity focus the mind through the eye, on the object. Do not lose the awareness of the object even for a second. Breathe gently, and then more gently, until the sense of breathing is lost. Slowly allow yourself to enter more deeply into quiet and calm. Make certain that the body is kept relaxed; do not tense up in concentration. Neither should you allow yourself to fall into a stupor, a dullness, or a trance.
Do not think about the object, just let it be in awareness. This is an important distinction to make. Thinking about the object is not the kind of concentration we are developing. The point is just to keep the mind placed on the object, on the sense perception of the object, to undistractedly remain aware of the presence of the object. When the mind does get distracted and it often will in the beginning, gently bring it back to the object and leave it there.
As stability is developed, the second stage of practice is entered: natural zhine. In the first stage, concentration is developed by continually directing the attention to the object and developing control over the unruly mind. In the second stage, the mind is absorbed in contemplation of the object and there is no longer the need for force to hold it still. A relaxed and pleasant tranquility is established, in which the mind is quiet and thoughts arise without distracting the mind from the object. The elements of the body become harmonized and the prana moves evenly and gently throughout the body. This is an appropriate time to move to fixation without an object.
Abandoning the physical object, simply fix the focus on space. It is helpful to gaze into expansive space, like the sky, but the practice can be done even in a small room by fixing on the space between your body and the wall. Remain steady and calm. Leave the body relaxed.
Rather than focusing on an imagined point in space, allow the mind, while remaining in strong presence, to be diffuse. We call this "dissolving the mind" in space, or "merging the mind with space." It will lead to stable tranquility and the third stage of zhine practice.
INTERVIEW WITH KHENPO CHODRAK RINPOCHE
With kind permission of the Karma Kagyu Dharma Society, Kuala Lumpur
Question: How is the structural ranking of Khenpos, Rinpoches and Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: In Tibetan Buddhism one finds mention of reincarnated masters and teachers who have the title Rinpoche. The tradition of a line of reincarnate masters began in the 12th century in Tibet.
So, to begin with, there were not as it is today, a lot of reincarnated lamas. That string of events took place throughout the centuries on the basis of that more and more monasteries were constructed and that a lama who constructed a monastery would have made quite an impact in the region. Thus, after his passing away, disciples would request masters with the capacity to find the reincarnation. Thus, a great number of reincarnated lamas came about as more and more monasteries were onstructed to date to about 6000.
Then, there is the title Rinpoche which has nothing to do with a master being a reincarnate but a way of addressing a person respectfully.
Then there is the position of a Khenpos, in the Western system would correspond approximately to a Doctor of Divinity. Someone would be appointed to this position on the basis on his merits on Buddhist studies and his conduct as well as on his capacity to teach.
Different monasteries would have slightly different systems in terms of the education resulting in someone being appointed as a Khenpos. However in the Kagyu, Nyingma and Sakya school, the systems are similar. So, the person starts out studying at a young age, first, there is a general education in Language and so on. Then, that is followed by an approximately 9 years education in Buddhist philosophy. In a group of students who go through this 9 years course, one of the students, the most apt, is chosen in the position of junior Khenpos. That person will for a period of approximately 5-6 years act as an assistance to the head Khenpos of the monasteries where he will develop experience in teaching. So, if it turns out that he has the capacity to teach he will then be appointed to the position of a Khenpos. Having acted as a Khenpos, having taught for approximately 5-10 years, if the person's teachings were beneficial to the students he will be appointed as a head Khenpos. In the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the position of a Khenpos involves a longer period of study and gaining teaching experience. The person first take the degree of a Geshe which involves the study of 21 years. He then for yet another couple of years will study the Buddhist Tantras after which he may on the basis of his merits be appointed as a Khenpos of his monasteries.
Then there is the position of a lama. That position is obtained on a basis of a practitioner having done meditational retreat over long periods of time. There is a tradition of an individual doing 3 years retreat after which they are given the title lama. However everyone with the title of a lama is of course not the same. The quality of the practice vary from individual to individual. However this is in general how someone obtain the title of a lama.
Question: Do Tulkus have to go through the same stages of studies before they can actually be recognised ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Most reincarnated individuals are recognised as children. However someone who is recognised as a particular lama should engage in the studies. But it does not always happens. That is quite individual.
Question: In Buddhism we emphasise so much on non-duality and emptiness, why is the hierarchy system in Tibetan Buddhism still so important ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: If one looks at the Buddhist viewpoint in terms of how the true nature of reality is asserted, then these different structures where you have a religious hierarchy is not important. There is the structure set up by the historical Buddha Sakyamuni in terms of what one may call a hierarchy. There are 2 aspects. The first relates to realisation. That is to say that the individual has attained the state of an Arhat, thus, he has develop the realisation of an Arhat. And thus he is regarded as superior when compared to a practitioner who has not attained this state. Then there is the aspect of ordination. There are different types of ordination in the Buddhist system. When one looks at the system in terms of ordination. Someone would be regarded as an elder on the basis of having taken ordination and upheld the ethics of that ordination for a longer period of time. So, there the system is based on how long the person has upheld a certain type of ordination. The longer the more respectful, he will be treated. But that system set-up by the Buddha Sakyamuni do not have a system of people where because of their achievements in realisation, or in their achievements in upholding their ordinations, are being seated on thrones of different heights.
So that system set forth by the historical Buddha Sakyamuni was maintained in India at the various Buddhist universities such as Nalanda and other Buddhist institution. That system one also finds in Tibet. However during the 12th century in Tibet a connection was made between Buddhism and the Chinese Imperial court through the mediation of the then Tibetan King, Drogon Chogya Pagpa. So during the 12th century, the Yang Dynasty ruled in China, then the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Because of Tibetan Buddhism, from the 12th century onwards, being linked-up in politics in the Chinese Imperial courts there was an influence. That's how the tradition of Rinpoches, Lamas and reincarnated masters started to sit on high thrones. That tradition originated from the Chinese Imperial courts on the basis of political ties. So, in fact the hierarchy one finds in Tibetan Buddhism has nothing much to do with Buddhism. It is not at all important. In fact, it has become a source of problems, rather.
Question: Could you explain when and how did the Tulku system originated ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It originated in the 12th century in Tibet. This system is particular to the Tibetan Buddhism. It is not part of any other Buddhist system in other countries. It originated from the Karmapa. The line of Karmapas, is the line with which this system originated. The second line of reincarnated masters in Tibet is the line of the Sharmapas. So, it originates with the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Question: Is this system still suitable for our modern society ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It depends on the Tulkus as an individual. All Tulkus are not the same. If a Tulku is authentic, that is to say, acts and works in accordance to the Buddhist principles, then that system is adaptable and suitable in today's world. However, it has become a problematic issue because many Tulkus act on the basis of political motivation and again other Tulkus act on the basis of amassing wealth, gaining personal benefits and so on. So because of the action of these individuals, the system has been tarnished. It has become problematic. Someone I knew, a Tulku who went to Taiwan, having spent some time there I met him in one of his visits in India. This Tulku advised me that when I go to Taiwan I should see to it that I am addressed as Tulku Rinpoche, because as such I would be able to make a lot of money.
Question: Could Khenpos tell us how is the procedure of finding and recognising Karmapas from the past up to now ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It depends. 7 of the previous Karmapas left written instructions behind. 5 of them left oral instructions with a disciple of their choice. 4 of them left neither written nor oral instructions. The reincarnation in those cases themselves made clear who they were. So there wasn't a procedure of finding them on the basis of any written or oral instructions left behind. 3 of the previous Karmapas were identified by 3 of the previous Sharmapas. 1 was identified by one of the heads of the Drugpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. One was identified by a Nyingma master. The head of the Drugpa Kagyu and the Nyingma master were assisted, in their quest, by various Kagyu lamas, such as one of the Situpas, one of the Jamgon reincarnation and one of the Khyentse reincarnation. So the identification in those cases were made on the basis of the combined effort of these people whereas in the case of the Sharmapas, it was done without the assistance of other Buddhist masters. For example, the 13th Karmapa was identified by a Nyingma master Khathok Rinzin Zherwang Lodrop. He approached the then Situpa and informed him of his thoughts then in combined effort they identified the 13th Karmapa on the basis of this Nyingma master's findings. Then there is the 14th Karmapa, who was identified mainly on the basis of the effort of the then head of the Drugpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism Kunzig Chokyi Namwar. However he consulted Situ Pema Nyingche, the 9 Situ reincarnation, so in combined effort they made public their findings. However it was mainly based on the effort of the then Drugpa Kagyu head that the 14th Karmapa was identified. Then we have the 15th Karmapa, who was mainly identified again by the then head of the Drugpa Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism, Kunzig Mingyur Wangyi Dorje. However he did consult Jamgon Lodro Thaye and Khyentse Wangpo and one of the Pawo Tulkus, so it was again a combined effort. However in the 3 cases in which the Karmapas being identified by 3 Sharmapas, the identification processes did not take place on the basis of a combined effort but were conducted by the Sharmapas alone.
Question: We know that now there is presently 2 Karmapas, one found in India and another in Tibet. Can Rinpoche explain under what circumstances the Karmapas are found ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: I have spent 22 years with the 16th Karmapa as from the age of 9. I studied Buddhism and my meditation practice under the personal guidance of the late Karmapa. I was also appointed the position of a Khenpos by the previous Karmapa. After the late Karmapa passed away I have since then been in charge of all the activities associated with the position of a Khenpos in the monastery Rumtek in India for a period of 12 years, I have been the head Khenpos of the Nalanda Institute of Rumtek monastery as well as the educational director of the Karmapa Institute in Delhi. As to the young Tibetan boy appointed as a throne holder of the throne of the Karmapas in Tibet, the Zurphu monastery, that's a political appointment in that it was done by the Chinese authorities. The young child at Zurphu monastery was appointed the reincarnation of the late Karmapa by the communist Chinese. So it is a political appointment. The Dalai Lama has given his consent and seal of approval and that is also politically motivated. The present Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche has done all he can in order to find the authentic reincarnation which he was able to do and one finds the authentic reincarnation of the late Karmapa in Delhi. It is not something that I just say without having a reason for saying such. As I have said, I have spent the major part of my life with the late Karmapa, so I have a certain capacity to look at a propose reincarnation and investigate this child to see if he is the possible reincarnation. I have done so in the case of the reincarnation in Delhi and I am fully convince that he is the authentic reincarnation of the late Karmapa.
For me, there is no benefit in siding either Situ Rinpoche or Shamar Rinpoche. I have nothing to gain from siding either of them. What I have achieved in this life, I have achieved on the basis of the kindness of the late Karmapa. I am fully capable of leading my own life and need not be lead by either of the Rinpoches. What is important to me is to find the authentic reincarnation. My opinions are based purely on this. On my previous experience gained from having lived such a long period of time with the late Karmapa and on the basis of me being an independent person having nothing to gain and not even wanting to gain anything from anyone, have I arrive on this decision. In terms of what I can achieve in religious social status in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, I have achieved this already. So I don't have to put my hopes in either Situ Rinpoche or Shamar Rinpoche to give me some sort of position because I was given that by the late Karmapa. And in terms of my financial situation, I have what I need, I don't need financial support from either. In terms of communicating with Buddhist students, the problem is rather that I am unable to attend all the programmes as requested for me to conduct. So the problem is rather that there are many requests by Buddhist students for me to teach which I do not have the opportunities to teach, so I don't need assistance from anyone.
Question: Could Khenpos elaborate a little about the meaning of "political decision" as in relation to the Dalai Lama ? I have read in an article by Situ Rinpoche's supporters that the Dalai Lama saw the boy Karmapa in a meditative vision.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The Dalai Lama in terms of Tibet's status, would of course like to achieve independence for Tibet presumably. If that's not possible, He would go along with the status of Tibet as an autonomous region. However as the leader of that region, He would like to have full political power over the region. If he were to achieve that, it would be of great assistance to have a historically well-known person in your hands which the young boy in Zurphu would be such a person as the Dalai Lama has given his approval as the head of all the Kagyu School of Buddhism.
Question: That means he did not see the Tibetan boy in a meditative vision ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Isn't it the case that when the Dalai Lama said that "I have given my seal of approval on the basis of my wisdom vision", the reality of the background of this appointment is that all Kagyu representative concerned were not in harmony. How is it that his wisdom vision did not perceive that. Also if it were to be a true wisdom vision, why was the procedure of voting initiated by Situ Rinpoche and his representatives. Why did then people have to vote about who is the real Karmapa when the Dalai Lama's wisdom vision had already decided this. Its quite contradictory.
Question: So, how is this issue affecting the Buddhist practitioners ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Quite a number have left Buddhism simply because their Buddhist background is not very well establish in that they have not really studied or practice Buddhism very well. So because of this problem they have chosen to leave Buddhism altogether.
If we look at the Buddhist institution that the late Karmapa established in exile in India, which was aimed to preserve the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. During his lifetime and a few years after, whether one was looking at the monasteries, the educational institutes or any other Buddhist communities established by the late Karmapa, members would more or less be involved in Dharma activities 24 hours of the day. Now all that has been destroyed. There is nothing left. For example, if we look at Rumtek monastery, it is now a tourist spot for Indian tourists. That's all that's left of what the late Karmapa accomplished in exile. So, from one aspect, this is what has happened due to the current issue.
However one can look at this issue from another perspective which is the perspective that the Kagyu followers who are genuinely following the Karmapa, have ended up in one group and that may be quite constructive as to the future of the Karmapa. Because people in this group are genuinely concern with the authentic Karmapa. At times I'm quite depressed about what has happen but at times I think it may not be that bad after all because now it has become very clear who among the reincarnated masters, lamas and Rinpoches are concerned with the authentic Karmapa. Now one knows who is who, so to speak. In fact I feel as if I have broken up from the sleeve of ignorance regarding my perception on the various reincarnated lamas and Rinpoches who have shown their preferences in this matter. So I just hope I will never again fall into that sleeve of ignorance.
Question: How have this issue affected Karmapa's monasteries, for example the monastery in Rumtek and the one in Zurphu ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: As to the Rumtek monastery I have just explained that there is nothing left of what His Holiness had established there. Its been ruined...destroyed. As to the Tsurphu monastery, at this point I feel I can't say too much as I really do not have the connection with the people in Tsurphu. There is no on-going communication. However, I am of the opinion that slowly it would become clear who is the authentic Karmapa and things would change on their own accord.
Question: So in relation with this problem, is it proper for individuals like Khenpos and Rinpoches to come out of the monasteries and set up their own centres and monasteries and what would be the long term impact on this kind of a set-up ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Individual lamas, Rinpoches and Tulkus who in fact lived and were educated in Rumtek monastery, many of them today established their own monasteries, centres and so on and have been doing so for many years. That is one of the reasons why we have this present problem. The late Karmapa's intention was that Buddhism should spread and develop. One should maintain the Tibetan Buddhism on the basis of a common effort. Now, some of the individual Tulkus, Rinpoches and lamas seem to desire otherwise. So they have acted otherwise, that is to say, in an opposite way. And that is one the reasons why we have problems.
If we look at Thrangu Rinpoche, for example, in the past, quite a few years ago, he established his own centre here in Malaysia. At the time, the Karmapa Charitable Trust contacted Thrangu Rinpoche, informing him that it would be preferable that his centre was a member of the general Karma Kagyu organisation, which he refused. Furthermore, later on, he associated himself with the appointment of Urgyen Trinlay in Tibet as reincarnation of His Holiness. And, he claims that his centre here in Malaysia is the head centre of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. So, in his case you can see what happens with just one person and how many games have been played and why it has become a problem. So because of causes of action like that of Thrangu Rinpoche, and in cases of other Rinpoches, Karma Kagyu today is shattered.
Question: Will there be a happy ending to this ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It would be difficult for me to predict the future.
Question: What is the actual role of the Karmapa Charitable Trust and who was the one who set up the Trust ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: His Holiness the late Karmapa fled to India in 1959, and in 1961 he set-up the Karmapa Charitable Trust. So, the late Karmapa was the sole trustee of the Trust. Then there was yet another 7 trustee whom he appointed himself. At the time in 1961, Sikkim was still an independent country. One of the seven trustees appointed by the late Karmapa was then one of the ministers of the King of Sikkim, Vhanya Tashi Thrangu Denshapa because this particular family to which this minister belonged had been associated with the Karmapas since the 7th Karmapa. Also the family is well-known for being an honest and decent family.
There was Yarma Sherub Gyaltsen who at the time was the secretary of the department of the religious affairs in Sikkim. He later became the Chief Secretary of the State of Sikkim after Sikkim became a part of India. He was appointed as one of the trustee by the late Karmapa. He was also well-known for being an honest and decent person.
There was another trustee, Ashok Burma who is Indian. He is well-known in India as the owner of the Tabor Company a well-known medical company. He became a student of the late Karmapa during a travel of pilgrimage to India by the late Karmapa before Tibet was occupied by Communist China.
The other trustee was a Nepalese gentleman, Mr. Gyal Jothi. He went to Tibet before it was invaded by communist China. And he was already then a disciple of the late Karmapa. His Holiness in the case of these four trustees made the following arrangements. Namely, in the death of one of these trustees, the oldest child of the deceased person would take the position of the deceased trustee.
Another trustee who was the then general secretary of the Karmapa Dangchub Yondub, and another trustee appointed was Trakbar Yondub, the present general secretary Topga Rinpoche. Topga Rinpoche was the son of the late Karmapa's sister. He was the Vajra master of the Tsurphu Monastery. He has very high qualifications in terms of the Karmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism. Another trustee was Jamgyal Namgyel Gompu ,who was the son the of one the late Karmapa's uncle. And before Tibet fell he was one of the ministers to the king of Delgyer. And he was well known for his honesty and decency. These seven individuals were appointed as trustees by the late Karmapa. So the late Karmapa made the following arrangements, in the case of the death of himself, the Karmapa Charitable Trust would take charge of whatever is associated with the Karmapas until the reincarnation came of age. That is to say 21 years old. So the Trust is suppose to, according to the instructions of the late Karmapa, be in charge of whatever the late Karmapa created until the 17th Karmapa become 21 years old.
As for the general secretary Dangchub Yondub, Jamgya Namgyal Gompu and Topga Rinpoche, in the case of their death, they will be succeeded by a new trustee chosen among the disciple of the Karmapa. After the death of one of the above of either Dangchub Yondub or Namgyal Gompu, his place as trustee was taken over by the late Jamgon Rinpoche. Situ Rinpoche became the trustee for the other. Mr. Ashok Burma, the Indian gentleman resigned at one point, and Shamar Rinpoche took up his position as trustee. All this happened after the passing away of the late Karmapa. So we can actually make a consideration. During the life of the late Karmapa, none of the four regents were appointed Trustee. They only became Trustees after his death.
Question: What was the reason behind him not appointing the four regents for this purpose ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It seems that the Karmapa was aware of the problem that would surface now.
Question: Would you say that this was a precautionary step that he had taken ahead of time ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It is possible.
Question: Is the Karmapa Charitable Trust having the full co-operation of the Kagyu Rinpoches and lamas.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Most of them not. The problem it seems, for those people, is that the Trustees are too honest. It doesn't suit their purposes.
In November 1992, there was a meeting in Rumtek monastery called by Situ Rinpoche aimed at dissolution the Karmapa Charitable Trust. To put it out. It was uncomfortable for him. However because of the laws of India, he was not able to do so. It wasn't legally acceptable.
Question: Is it true that there can be only one Karmapa ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Well, at one point in time hundreds of millions of manifestations may manifests. However, historically, in terms of holding the name Karmapa, there is only one. There are at this particular point, two who hold the title Karmapa. As to the young Tibetan boy in Tsurphu, who has been appointed to this position, his appointment was affected by Communist China. There is nothing anyone can do to change that. China is a powerful country. Also, why would one want to do anything about it. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche himself had said he has nothing against this young boy in Tsurphu holding this position. It is perfectly all right. However, one can also not do away with the authentic Karmapa. The authentic Karmapa is a great Bodhisattva. So it is improper to change that. So at this point in time there are 2 with that title. It maybe beneficial in the long run.
Question: Can Khenpos tell us about the search and the efforts of Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche for the authentic Karmapa in India.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: I cannot go into details at this point of time because some of the details cannot go public as yet. However, at the age of one year and 8 months, the Karmapa in Delhi did at a number of occasions said "I am the Karmapa". There are people who witnessed this who can substantiate that claim. At the age of 3, he naturally without ever having been taught the text of the Madyamaka Avattara, recited the whole text. And that was also witnessed by a number of people who can substantiate that. This particular treatise is one of the great treatises of Buddhism. It is about the Madyamaka school of thoughts. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche resorted to a number of traditional methods in order to find the authentic reincarnation. Amongst others, he supplicated his Yidam and stayed in meditation and in this way obtained advice as to the whereabouts of the authentic reincarnation. Furthermore there is a song of realisation written by the late Karmapa at the age of 22, which contains instructions pointing to the whereabouts of the authentic reincarnation and these instructions in the Song of Realisation accords with the background of the reincarnation in New Delhi. There is a treasure revealer in the Nyingma school of Tibetan who lived in this century, Silnang Lingpa, who also wrote down indications as to the whereabouts of the 17th Karmapa and his indications is also in accord with the background of the reincarnation in New Delhi. Also, Thaye Dorje's father, Mipam Rinpoche, is the reincarnation of the late Mipam Rinpoche, one of the greatest Nyingma masters of the century and previous century. The previous Mipam Rinpoche left a letter of instruction behind where he gives details of his next reincarnation. That is to say, the father of His Holiness is in possession of this letter and the instructions in this letter also accords with the background of the reincarnation in Delhi. So in general, those were the circumstances. I would not at this point want to go into further details. I have thoroughly investigated the circumstances before taking my decision. It becomes clear from the records during the Karma Kagyu's conference that Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche didn't make up his mind in one day. He applied himself to a process of investigation for many years. From 1986 to 1993, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche made investigations in which he only made up his mind in 1993 having started his investigation in 1986.
Question: Since the authentic Karmapa is found, what would happen to the supporters of the other "Karmapa" in Tibet ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: I can't predict the future. However, a lot of changes have already taken place. When the 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje arrived in New Delhi, there were approximate 10 Tulkus who agreed with this. This year as the Kagyu Monlam was held in Bodhgaya, there were approximately 50 Tulkus. It seems quite a few have changed their minds so far.
Question: What advice would Khenpos Rinpoche give to Buddhist practitioner in the light of this problem ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism is one of the division of Buddhism. As a Buddhist, one always should follow the truth. So wherever the truth is, there one goes. Perhaps some of you may feel uncomfortable because it maybe that one of your lamas are supporters of Urgyen Trinlay. If one has taken teachings from a lama or Rinpoche and one's opinion differs in this particular case, there is no need for speaking bad of that lama or Rinpoche. One should avoid such. However there is also no need to follow someone not seeking the truth. So it doesn't need to be a problem. I myself was a student of Thrangu Rinpoche for many years. Thrangu Rinpoche taught me a lot of Buddhist philosophies. I see no need to speak ill of Thrangu Rinpoche at all. However I do not also fear speaking the truth, because when Thrangu Rinpoche taught me Buddhist philosophy he taught me true Buddhist philosophy. So he taught me the truth. As to this Karmapa issue, we hold differing opinions. I don't fear stating my opinion as I am convinced that this is the truth. Also, my devotion for Thrangu Rinpoche as teacher of the Buddhist scriptures has not diminished because Thrangu Rinpoche is associating himself with Urgyen Trinlay.
Question: What are the differences between the 3 vehicles of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: These 3 approaches in Buddhism were taught by Buddha Sakyamuni in relation to the fact that the disciple are of different disposition. It is not possible to explain the differences in just a few words. However one of the differences pertains to the fact that some of the approaches in Buddhism involves a greater number of methods than other approaches.
Question: What is the significance of the Karma Kagyu lineage within the Vajrayana tradition ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan originated from the 1st Karmapa Dusum Kyenpa who practised and mastered the instructions originating in Tibet with Marpa the translator. Dragpo Rinpoche was the first Karmapa's root guru. And from Dragpo Rinpoche, Dusum Kyenpa obtained instructions regarding 2 particular phases of practising the Buddhist tantra. One relating to the phase on visualisation practice. Here the particular instruction are mentioned in the context of the union of appearance and emptiness, which one may also refer to as the union of awareness and emptiness. Then there is another set of instructions relating to the phase of tantric practice where the individual rests in the state without a reference point. Here, the particular instructions pertain to realising the inseparability of mind and prana. This is an extensive subject and there is nothing one can say in just a few words to be of benefit.
Question: Why is the Kagyu Lineage considered unbroken and why is it called a whispering lineage?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The word whispering may not be a correct phrase to use here. Certain teachings were given from masters to particular disciples who had the capacity to master the teachings. They were not given on a large scale. It was not as if the teachings were whispered to some students. The lineage originates from the Indian master Tilopa referred to as a person of very profound esoteric knowledge and capacity. He studied with a number of great Indian Siddhas at that time. There is mention of that he studied with Indian Siddhas who held the teachings of what became known as the four special transmissions. Now, Tilopa did not just studied with these Buddhist masters. He also realised and mastered the meaning of the teachings he had received. At one point, as a result of his high realisation he encountered Buddha Vajradhara and obtained teachings from this Buddha. The teachings of the Karma Kagyu lineage has then onwards been passed on from master to disciple in an unbroken line up to today. This is the reason why there were never any period of interruption in the lineage and it is considered unbroken.
Question: How do you explain some of the reincarnates that are considered to be an emanation of certain Bodhisattvas and Buddhas ? How one knows that ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: I find it difficult to comment on individual cases. However in the autobiography of Jamgon Lodro Thaye, he himself says that he is recognise as the great Tibetan translator, Vairocana, by many lamas. However he himself said that he is not the reincarnation of Vairocana even though many recognise him as such. He said the fact that some made this recognition could possibly come from the fact that he possesses the Buddha nature and that he in the past have had a very close connection with this particular Tibetan Translator. So, in that sense, there could have been this sort of recognition so to speak. However it is also recorded in his autobiography he himself knew fully well that he was not.
It could be, he said in his autobiography, by affording him this recognition, the consequence in terms of him as a practitioner would be that he would be very careful in his practice of Buddhism and that would maybe bring about in the future that he will become as great as the translator Vairocana. So maybe, it was for that type of reasons some lamas recognised him as the reincarnation of Vairocana.
Its recorded in the scriptures that Milarepa, Tibet's great yogi, at one point, spoke of his life said to Rechungpa and some other of his students. Having heard about Milarepa's life, his students said that "you must be either the reincarnation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva". Milarepa answered, "What you have just said amounts to disparaging the Dharma. I'm not at all a reincarnation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. I'm quite an ordinary individual who have practised the path. And as a result of my practice, I have obtained Buddha the Enlightened state".
Question: How can we know if someone is enlightened ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: An ordinary samsaric person entertains obscuring states of mind that produce sufferings whereas an enlightened individual has done away with the obscuring states of mind that produces sufferings. If someone looks at a Bodhisattva, one knows that a Bodhisattva is on his way to Buddha the Enlightened state. So one should not equate a Buddha to a Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas do have certain obscuring states of mind, however not at all to the extent as ordinary samsaric beings.
Question: What is the origination of the 4 foundation and the importance of it ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The 4 foundations are important because they prepare the practitioner for the practice of Mahamudra. So it is a preparatory state. However, the practice is important but not the number of times that one does those practices. It is not impossible to attain Buddha the Enlightened state without the practice of the 4 foundation.
In order to attain Buddha the Enlightened state, the individuals must attain realisation of emptiness. In order to attain the first Bhumi, the individual must also attain the realisation of emptiness. For a person to be able to attain the realisation of emptiness, there are 3 principal causes, without which it is not possible to realise emptiness.
The first is that the practitioner has been able to turn his back on the samsaric way of life and that he has unshakeable trust and confidence in the triple gem. Also, the individual must have brought about a change of state in his mind in order to be able to realise emptiness. That is to say he would have to be a person who on the basis of his practice has done away with a great deal of karmic consequences as well as obscuring states of mind. The third cause is that the practitioner has created good or positive potential to a very great extent because without having brought about positive potentials, there is no possibility of being able to perceive emptiness. It is for the sake of developing these three, the four foundations were created. However, it is not the case that one cannot attain the state of Mahamudra without having practised the four foundations. If one develops these three on the basis of other methods, the result would be the same. At the time of, for example, Marpa the translator, the practice of the 4 foundations doesn't seem to have assisted. In spite of that, Marpa attained realisations. So, he must have done it on the basis of other practices.
Question: The practitioners are normally asked to do the 4 foundations for a certain amount of times. So one can hear practitioners claiming the number of times they have done a certain foundation. Some says, for example, one prostration in Bodhgaya is equivalent to 10,000 times in other places. What is the view of Khenpos Rinpoche on this kind of perception ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The number of times one does the practice is not important. It is the quality of the practice. If one does millions of prostrations while distracted that won't produce an effect even though one did many. Whereas if a person does this practices on the basis of genuine trust and confidence, even though he might not do the practices many times, but it will bring about an effect.
The Prajna Paramitas made mention of that, a Bodhisattva on the 2nd Bhumi and onwards has the capacity to imbue an area with his spiritual influence. Thus, doing practice in places where great beings have spent time, it means that the place has an effect on one's practice because the place, so to speak, is influenced by the spirituality of that Bodhisattva or that Buddha.
Question: Should there be a certain mode of behaviour when one is attending a puja or Dharma session ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: When attending various events one should regard oneself as a person afflicted by illness. The illness of obscuring states of mind and the Dharma as the medical treatment and the teacher as the physician. Also one should resolve to attend the ceremony and listening to the teachings for the sake of becoming able to benefit beings in numbers as vast as the sky. For the sake of becoming able to lead them to Buddha the Enlightened State. Also, one should be respectful and act in a respectful way while attending these ceremonies.
Question: When a person prostrates in the beginning of a puja or a Dharma session, what should his state of mind be ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: You should contemplate bodhicitta.
Question: Before a master starts a puja or Dharma session, the practitioners will normally prostrate. Are we prostrating to the master, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or the Dharma that he teaches ? What should be our frame of mind ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: One should prostrate to the Dharma. Of course one should be respectful to the teacher. However, the main aspect is the teaching. Today it is quite difficult to tell if the teacher is authentic or not. So why prostrate to the teacher. It is better to prostrate to the teaching.
Question: So if we are not sure if the teacher is authentic, we are also not sure if his teachings are authentic. Can we just not prostrate until we are sure ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Yes. It is okay if we do not prostrate. No point in forcing oneself. Buddha Sakyamuni said that the teachings he made, he made available for the purpose of giving an opportunity for the beings to tame their minds. That is the purpose of his teachings. So if a teacher's teachings has an effect that one's state of mind improves, it probably means that the teachings are authentic.
If the teacher appears to be interested in amassing wealth, money and so on, if he appears to be a person of that calibre, it means he is not authentic. There are many variations here. The teachings may be authentic even though the teacher is not. You may have a situation where both teacher and teachings are authentic. You may have a situation where the teacher and teachings are both not authentic.
Question: At the end of a Dharma session, should we prostrate ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Some do and some don't. At the end of a course of teachings, it's a tradition to do that. Some do it after every teaching and some don't. There are no fixed rules.
Question: There is a saying that Milarepa when he left Marpa, he prostrated, after which he did not have the chance to meet Marpa again.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: He probably did not, not meet him again just because he prostrated to Marpa in their last meeting. That wasn't the cause for them not meeting again. So, that might have been some special kind of prostration ! Of course, in terms of Tibetan culture, we have various ways on the basis of which people claim to divine the future. Some people, for the sake of setting up future connections, would do certain things like, for example, if the teacher teaches certain things like the Jewel Ornament of Liberation during the last session, he would again give an explanation that illucidates the name of the scripture that he is teaching even though he has already done that at the beginning of the course because that is said to set-up the conditions for teaching the same scripture at some point in the future.
Question: In the Vajrayana practice, we speak of this Guru-disciple relationship. Can Rinpoche elaborates on this relationship.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: For there to be a relationship, the lama must be authentic to begin with. Both the teacher and the student, for them to have a proper relationship should have appreciation of one another. The student should regard the teacher as a parent and the teacher should regard the student as his child.
The teacher should be concerned with making efforts for the sake of making it possible for the student to free himself of samsara. And the student should regard the teacher as someone who acts for the sake of freeing him from samsara.
It's important to remember, be mindful of and practice the instructions that give you the possibilities to attain freedom from samsara. Nowadays, it's very often the case that a teacher establishes connections with people he calls his students for the sake of obtaining influence, wealth and so on and there are many Buddhist students who refer to themselves as the disciples of a certain lama but who in fact uses the lama for their personal purposes.
Question: Is a Root Guru necessarily an ordained person ? Can a lay person become one's Root Guru ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Why not. Marpa and Milarepa are not ordained.
Question: Often we hear people talking about opening up our hearts to our gurus. So, what does it actually mean?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Well it means that as you practice under the guidance of someone, you should not conceal anything but you should tell your teacher of your experiences and so on, that you have a meditation. This is not a phrase one uses at all times. It's a phrase used in the context of seeing Mahamudra. As one practices, one will have various experiences and it's important to discuss those experiences with one's teacher. In order to find out whether a certain experience is a hindrance or something that will would contribute towards developing further. So that's why it's important not to conceal anything. And that's what this phrase implies.
Question: What is the quality of a Root Guru that the disciple should look for and what is the quality of a disciple the Guru should look for?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It's difficult to make a general statement because it depends on what type of guru you're talking about. Whether it's a Guru in the Theravada tradition, the Mahayana or the Tantra tradition. Thus also if one looks at the characteristics of a student, then it depends on what practice the student is doing. There is nothing general. There are different types of spiritual friends. There are teachers and spiritual friends who are quite ordinary, then there are teachers and spiritual friends which are Bodhisattvas on any of the Bhumi. In brief, the Guru must have a profound knowledge and understanding of the teachings he expounds.
The Guru's behaviour must accord with the teachings he gives. His conduct should be in accordance with the advice he gives to students. Also he must teach because he wants to free the students from samsara. There should be no other motives to his teachings. In The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, we find a chapter devoted to explaining the qualities of a spiritual friend. In that text one can find a more extensive explanation. And the student must have trust and confidence and who is capable of making efforts in his practice.
Question: What are Samaya vows?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Samaya, to begin with, is a particular feature of the Buddhist Tantras. It is not of all Buddhist school of thoughts. If a practitioner is capable of upholding his samaya being the various commitments he has made in relation to a particular tantra that he practices, the effect would be that he accomplishes and masters those teachings and he attains realisations. On the other hand if he is not able to maintain the commitments, he has committed himself to maintain, he will not obtain any result. When one looks at the Buddhist Tantras, in relation to each tantra there is a great number of different commitments. For there to be samaya, in terms of a guru and disciple, the guru must be an authentic guru of the Tantrayana and the disciple must be a disciple capable of practising whatever Tantras at hand. Otherwise samaya doesn't happen. Receiving empowerment is said to be the gateway to the Buddhist Tantrayana and most empowerments are made up of 4 stages. There are 4 empowerments that make up urn empowerment. Now each empowerment is associated with a particular prospective of the true nature of reality. That empowerment is meant to have the effect that the student when in the process of receiving empowerment, has a glimpse of that particular aspect of the true nature of reality. If that doesn't happen during empowerment, samaya doesn't happen. Each of the 4 empowerments that make up urn empowerments has samaya or a set of commitments. Its a code of ethics associated with viewpoint, conduct and meditation. So, its quite a few commitments associated with each empowerment.
The student has to be introduce to each and everyone of these commitments, otherwise how can there be samaya. How can someone uphold a set of commitments that he doesn't know. Furthermore, as have been mentioned earlier, for someone to qualify as a Root Guru, the case must be that as a consequence of the Guru introducing the student to the true nature of reality, the student has a short insight or glimpse of Mahamudra. If that happens, then the lama becomes a Root Guru. Otherwise not. Also for anyone to be associated with samaya, relating to a particular aspect of a tantric practice, there are certain conditions and circumstances that must be fulfilled, otherwise it doesn't happen.
There is often frequent mentioning of transgressing samayas. One should be aware of that here as well, it's not as simple as it is often made up to be. Cause again, there are certain circumstances that must come together for that to happen. It doesn't happen easily.
Receiving teachings and taking refuge and so on makes the person who gives the teaching or the refuge a teacher, a lama, a spiritual friend and by no means a Root Guru. And by no means a guru of the Buddhist Tantras. If one asks the question of whether one should accomplish whatever one is told to do by this person, the answer is, well, if what you are asked to do is in accordance with the Buddhist principles, yes, otherwise, no.
Today we have quite a few lamas who very often tell people that they have received some samayas of some sort. If they don't follow whatever he says, they will end up in Vajra hell and what nots, this is not true. As was explained, samaya is not easily obtained and furthermore if one doesn't know what the commitments are, how can one break them. Its also not the case that its just the student having samayas. The Gurus also have samayas to uphold. Its not a one-way street. Through their combined efforts samaya may be upheld.
Question: When we receive empowerments, we may be asked to follow in recitation of certain prayers. And at the end of the empowerments, there are some commitments. When some lamas give initiations, we are just asked to chant and we will follow like parrots. Does this pertain to samaya ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Its not authentic. No. It could be that some lama gives this advice in the hope that it will have a positive effect on this person to do this recitation. It is a virtuous action and this would help the person to develop on the basis that this person has received some spiritual influence to practice. But it is not samaya.
Question: How many Root Gurus can one have ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: How could there be more than one because you do not need more than one to recognise the true nature of mind. Once you've recognise, you'd know it. So, there couldn't be more than one. However one can have many gurus in general. The great Khyentse Wangpo has 150 gurus.
However, for a beginner, it is not very constructive to take teachings from a lot of different teachers. Its a matter of not ending up with too many teachings and too much confusion. This was said by the Indian Buddhist master, Atisha. On a more advanced level, its all right to have a lot of teachers because one has stabilised oneself in the practice of the Dharma. He is no longer subjected to confusion in the same way as a beginner.
Question: Does it mean that even if a Guru is not specifically giving instructions and the student perceives his own true nature of mind that this guru is considered his Root Guru ? Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: No. It would happen on the basis of the guru giving the instructions and the instructions having the effect on the student having a glimpse of the true nature of mind. It won't happen in the absence of instructions.
Question: Is this nature of mind that Rinpoche mentioned a state of Mahamudra ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: No. Its different. That's why its called a "glimpse" of the true nature of mind because its not a realisation. It means that for a few moment, you catch a glimpse of mind's true nature but that vanishes. That's why you have to continue your practice. It meant that while receiving such instruction you may have become mature enough to for a few moments see the true nature of reality. However, that's not final realisation. Its just the beginning stage. So the point is, once you have a perception of mind's true nature, then you know what it is. Then you can cultivate it. And to cultivate that perception so that it becomes a continuous perception, what people call meditation. But the word actually means to cultivate. So you familiarise yourself more and more with the nature of reality.
Question: Is the true nature an awareness without conceptualisation ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It's not just a non-conceptual state. Its a state of mind where you recognise what mind in fact is ultimately. So, its a state of recognition. Its not just a state where you have no thoughts.
A lot of people seem to think that to rest in a state free from thoughts is to practise Mahamudra. In fact, this is not the case. Mahamudra is not just being free from thoughts. That's a simplification of Mahamudra.
Question: If one is practising Mahamudra in the Kagyu lineage, can we say that ultimately our Root Guru would definitely be Karmapa being the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: There has been a great Tibetan master, Karma Charme who went off to the land of Sukavati. He didn't even leave his body behind. He seems to have said, to begin with, the Karmapa would not become each and every Karma Kagyu practitioner's Root Guru on the basis of him being the main figure of the lineage. However, the Karmapa, were throughout Tibet's Buddhist history, referred to as Buddha Karmapa. So, he had been regarded as fully enlightened. Now, even if you receive instructions as to the true nature of mind from anyone else. It is according to Karma Charme, advisable to regard this teacher to be inseparable from the Karmapa himself. If one looks at the teacher in this way, it means one has the possibility of receiving the spiritual influence of the Karmapa. In these times, regarded as very degenerated, its good to cultivate this kind of perception, says Karma Charme, because otherwise one will probably find faults with the Guru. But if you look at him as inseparable from the Karmapa, this will prevent one from finding faults with the teacher as well as it being possible to receive the Karmapa's spiritual influence.
Question: Can the Root Guru and Disciple disown each other ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: You can't really eliminate a connection you have already established. Because, even if you don't meet the person in this life, you may meet him in another life. You can't really terminate a connection you have established with somebody. It is not within your power to do so.
Question: So does it depend on the karma of both parties to determine the future development of the relationship ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: No. Because once you have a connection with somebody, you will meet that somebody at one point or another. When the karmic circumstance for meeting this person again are present or have gathered, then you will meet this person again, whether in this life or in another life.
Question: Once having perceive a person as our Root Guru, later we find faults and we would like not to be associated with this person and not perceive him as our Root Guru anymore. Maybe take his picture down from the shrine or something of that sort. Can we do that ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: To begin with, you have to make sure whether he is your Root Guru as described. Of course you can avoid him. You don't have to go to places where he is. But to terminate the relationship, from the perspective of karma, that would be rather difficult.
The Indian Buddhist master Santideva said, its good to approach receiving instructions in the same way that honeybees collect pollen from flowers which they manufacture into honey. A bee flies from flower to flower to collect the pollens, then it brings back to the beehive and makes honey out of it. In doing so, it is not at all attaching itself to the flowers. He just collects what good the flowers have, what it can use and flies off. It's good to have a relationship like that. You receive the instructions and then you don't need to hang about your lama. You will find faults with him.
Question: Can Rinpoche explain a little on Guru devotion.
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It means that one finds out about the good qualities of the Guru and on the basis of one's knowledge of the Guru's exceptional qualities, develops trust and confidence in him.
Question: If the transmission or empowerment have not been received for a certain practice, can one go ahead to practise them ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: No. One should not do practices in the absence of receiving instructions, empowerments and so on. It's not a good idea. Especially not on the Buddhist Tantras. The practice won't be authentic of course.
Question: The general Chinese Mahayanists do chant some mantras without instructions and transmissions. How do we view this ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: That's okay because Chinese Buddhism has a different approach. Simply because its not the Buddhist Tantra. It is not Tantric. So, one doesn't need the lineage thing. Empowerments, transmissions and so on is part of the Buddhist Tantras. So that's why it is important in Vajrayana. As Chinese Buddhism is not tantric. It is not required.
However in general, it is always preferable to receive teachings on the basis of there being the background of a lineage of transmissions because if one tries to become a physician by just reading theories from medical books and no particle practices, it would not be advisable that one practices medicine. This would not make one a physician.
Question: What does a Yab Yum practice represent and what is the correct view on these practices ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: In general we have 3 aspects of the Buddhist tantric paths. There is the foundation, the path and the fruition. When one speaks of the foundation, one is speaking of the fact that the true nature of reality exists from the very beginning with all enlightened qualities. In relation to the foundation, there is mention of what is called the union of appearance and emptiness. Then, we have the aspect of path , mentioning the union of a state of well-being and emptiness. Then we have fruition, being, attaining the kayas. The Dharmakaya and the 2 form kayas. So the Yab Yum figures symbolises these. They are symbols of these.
Question: We come across many scandals from reading the medias, some considered highly realised masters having consorts claiming to be their tantric practices. What is the view of Rinpoche on this ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Well, there is this aspect of the path where the practitioner contemplates on the union of both state of well-being and emptiness. There are different states of well-being that one may experience. One of them being the sensation produced during copulation. There is a practice in the Buddhist Tantras where the practitioner uses this sensation in order to perceive emptiness. So it has nothing to do with the ordinary kind of sexual activities. For a person to be able to do this sort of practice, the person must have developed in his practice to a point where he is in full control of the subtle energies that flows throughout the subtle channels in the body. It is quite an advance stage and it would probably be quite rare to come across a person who has this capacity. I cannot judge if so and so has accomplished this. However, its very likely that some of the people who claim to do this practices are in fact attached to the pleasures of the senses. That's not at all permissible on the context of it being a tantric practice. Its counter productive and may not be engaged in.
Question: Is having a physical consort an outer part of the practice and different from the inner and the secret practices?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: If what is at hand is someone capable of doing this particular tantric practice, its an inner practice. Also, the Tibetan word for consort is not consort but in fact secret consort. The practitioner is supposed to keep this a secret. So, people who present a girlfriend or a wife as a secret consort, who knows if that is truly the case.
Question: For a practitioner to be able to engage in yab yum, he must be highly realised. But if one is highly realised why does he still need to have these practices ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: No. Its not that high a level. One develops the capacity to control the flow of prana in the body during the paths of unification. The 2nd of the 5 paths. So, its not an enlightened state. Compared to the ordinary person, of course this would be a very high level. Also, one can practise the Buddhist Tantras and attain realisation without ever relying on a secret consort. Its not absolutely necessary. There is for example the practice of Tummo, where this is not required. There are other Buddhist Tantric practices too. So it is not absolutely necessary. Some do and some don't.
Question: What is the definition of a Dakini ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: The definition of a Dakini is a witch.
Question: And Dakas ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Its a male witch.
Question: Are there different types of Dakinis ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: Yes. There are good and bad ones. There are good witches and bad witches. The word itself means "witch". That's what it means.
Question: Why is visualisation so important in Vajrayana ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: In order to tame the mind, one needs to practice shamata and vipasyana. Visualisation is a form of shamata practice to which you obtain the capacity to rest in a calm state.
Question: If during the completion stage of visualisation of a Yidam , one does not dissolve the visual and contemplate emptiness, is there any effects on the practitioner ?
Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche: It means your tendency to see things as real is too strong.
Gift of Dharma to Kublai Khan
(As spoken by the Sakya-pa Chogyal Phakpa)
To the incomparable Enlightened One, who is endowed with the splendour
of fame in name and the splendour of wondrous virtues in actual fact, I
Although you, mighty emperor, know already the discourses on worldly
and spiritual science, still, as with the songs and music of musicians
to which you listen again and again even when you have heard them all
before, why shouldn't a poet repeat wise words?
All of the countless teachings of Dharma taught by the Sage for the
sake of countless disciples indeed are meant to be practised. But how
may this be done?
Just as a man bound by fear and shame would not disobey his king's
command but dwell in right conduct without harming others and, as a
result, would ever grow in good fortune and even earn the praises of
his king, so, too, with a person who accepts, in accordance
with his ability to accomplish them, thel rules of discipline
enjoined by the Sage to help beginners on the Hinayana and Mahayana
paths: if, after properly receiving vows from an abbot, that person
would then guard them because he is bound both by fear of seen and
unseen sufferings in worldly existence and by shame whenever he
reflects, 'The multitudes of Noble Ones who know the thoughts of other
beings will be shamed if I break my vows, . . .'
He, as a result, would become a foundation not only of seen and unseen
joys in worldly existence, but of the virtues of perfect liberation; he
would also become a worthy object of veneration for men and gods and
even receive the praises of Buddhas.
These three realms of existence, after all, are just suffering, while
Nirvana, too, is just peace. Looking with pity, therefore, on those who
wish either for worldly existence or Nirvana, it is the Buddha alone
who, Himself free from sorrow, removes sorrow, and who, having Himself
attained great Joy, bestows joy. And He has appeared from amongst
beings like ourselves.
The methods He used we can also use. Without timidity and laziness,
therefore, you should unwaveringly aspire to win highest enlightenment
and feel free to think, 'I must surely attain Buddhahood . '
Guard as your own life the vows you have made which, if violated, will
cause you to be burnt in hells and which, if preserved, will enable you
to experience truly wonderful results in proceeding from Joy to Joy
Since the three sets of vows--of the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana
paths--are the foundation whereon all virtues may arise, remain and
grow within oneself and others, try from the very first to be firm in
Become certain that the Teaching, which is virtuous in its beginning,
middle and end, and whose words are quite flawless and not contra-
dictory to the two logical proofs of valid knowledge, is the unique
spiritual way among ways.
Know, too, that the Enlightened One who taught it is endowed with
unhindered wisdom and great compassion -- since He revealed (the truth)
without close-fistedness --and also with tremendous power.
Because they are His followers and a gathering of beings with virtues
similar to His, because also your own sphere of spiritual activity is
identical to theirs, know the noble Assembly of Bodhisattvas to be the
best field for increasing your merit.
Realising that it is your preceptor who points out and introduces you
to these Three Jewels, that he is endowed with the same virtues they
have, and that he sustains you with kindliness, always attend and
meditate upon him with unflagging faith.
Since they are like yourself in having the nature of being endowed with
the causes of pain and with a constant state of unsatisfactoriness, and
like yourself, moreover, in wishing themselves to be free from
unhappiness and its causes, you should unceasingly meditate great
compassion for all living beings.
Recalling the benefits of virtue which you will need in order to attain
highest enlightenment and to achieve others' good as well as your own
purposes, strive wholeheartedly with genuine devotion to acquire it.
In brief, since a mind endowed with faith, compassion and devotion is
the precursor of all spiritual accomplishments, perform every least
virtue with these three present.
Envision the Body of the Enlightened One either in front of you or as
your own body, and visualise that your dwelling place is a Buddhafield
wherein all beings are Conquerors surrounded by Bodhisattvas and
Disciples. Then worship yourself and others with oceans of offerings
consisting of the enjoyment of the five sense-objects.
Realise that your own virtuous preceptor and all the Conquerors are
truly equal and nondual in form, activity and essential nature. At all
times, you should envision him in front of you, or seated atop the
crown of your head, or within the lotus of your heart, and pray to him
or meditate upon him as being nondual with yourself.
Of virtue, nonvirtue, pleasure, pain and all the phenomena of Samsara
and Nirvana, mind is the substratum.
If you were to examine that mind thoroughly from every angle, you would
realise that it has neither colour nor shape, nor is it single or
manifold. It therefore has no nature; therefore it is not arisen,
neither does it remain nor cease. It is devoid of both centre and
periphery, and is thus away from all extremes. It has just the nature
Even so, cognition is not stopped. Hence mind has the nature of nondual
As one's own mind is, so, too, is the nature of all beings' minds.
Understand thoroughly that all phenomena are nondual
appearance-and-emptiness and place your mind in meditation without
Through meditating nondually on the two objects (one's preceptor and
the Enlightened One) and objectlessness (emptiness), you will attain
a superior meditative state of tranquil concentration (shamatha)
which cannot be disturbed by thoughts.
Joyfully remembering that every act of virtue or nonvirtue increases
the strength of one's virtuous or nonvirtuous inclinations, always
bring virtues to mind and strengthen them.
Especially should you recollect and analyse the support, form and
experience of your meditation whenever you have meditated upon an
object. Through examining further the interdependent origination of
their causes and conditions--however many they may be --you will attain
meditative insight (vidarshana) through realising the true state of
their suchness, i.e., that no support, form or experience whatsoever
Following the performance of virtues, you should gather together in one
all the merit acquired through that (meditation and the like), and
fully dedicate them to the attainment of perfect enlightenment by
yourself and all these countless beings.
Even though transferrable merit may not have been acquired at the time
you offer prayers, your wishes nonetheless will be fulfilled if you
pray for a great purpose to be achieved--for mind alone is chief.
Every virtue which is adorned by this kind of recollection, dedication
and noble prayer will increase unceasingly and eventually become the
cause of great good for oneself and others.
Everything that is experienced and all other conditioned things
(samskrtadharma) i.e., the five aggregates, the senses, sense-objects
and sense consciousnesses) are devoid of any nature of their own
because they all depend upon causes and conditions.
You should know, therefore, that these external objects also, which
appear in various forms to, and are experienced by, mind that is
stained by mental impressions, are not real; they are like magical
shows which appear due to a variety of causes they are also like
dreams that occur during sleep.
The (so-called) 'unconditioned dharmas' (asamskrtadharma) are simply
ascriptions. A person would have to be mad to wish to propose
meaningless names for them, or to indulge in thoughts about them and
thereby accept them as 'conditioned dharmas'.
Never scorn the connexion between deeds and their results, for (the
teachings on) the interdependent origination of cause-and-result as it
operates in the sphere of relative truth are not deceptive. You will
experience the ripening results of your actions.
There are 'eternalists' in whose view the substantiality of phenomena
is accepted. However, no object whatsoever exists which is devoid of
(both) direction (i.e., dimension) and time (i.e., consciousness): if
you were to analyse the forms of direction and space, you could not
possibly find a single entity (which is not reducible to its component
parts). And if a 'single entity' does not exist, whence could 'many'
appear? As there is no existence other than these, the
conceptualisation of 'existence' (itself) is an inferior one.
Just as there is no length without shortness, how could a nature of
'nonexistence' be apprehended when even a nature of 'existence' is not
Know, intelligent one, that the Real also does not consist of 'both'
(existence and nonexistence)
because this possibility has been removed by the rejection (of each
individually); nor does it consist of being 'neither' of the two,
because there is no logical proof for this possibility and, in any
case, there is no possible 'bothness' to which it could be
But if we were to conclude that 'Mind alone is real since it is
formless and thus has no directions', (we would have to admit that)
it also becomes plural and false if subject and object are identical,
(the latter being manifold).
If, however, subject and object are different to one another, how then
do objects become objectified and mind subjectified? If the two arise
dually, in what way (e.g, simultaneously or otherwise,) do they appear?
Finally, what kind of liberation is achieved merely by rejecting
illusory external appearances?
Since the object is not established as real by nature, the subject,
too, is not established as real. The claim that there exists somehow a
pure consciousness apart from these two, is as extremely wrong as the
(Sankhya philosophers' notion of a) 'Self' (purusha) distinct from the
transformations of primal nature (prakrter vikara).
Be free from supports, knowing that all phenomena from the first, are
unarisen, natureless, away from extremes and like space.
Marvellous and much more wondrous than any wonder is this knowledge
which does not relinquish the emptiness of all dharmas nor yet stop the
process of interdependent origination!
Realise that objects are the nonduality of appearance-and-emptiness,
that mind is the nonduality of knowledge-and-emptiness, and that the
paths to liberation are the nonduality of methods and wisdom.
Finally, act (in accord with this insight).
The stages of cause, path and result should be understood thus: the
interdependent origination of the relative sphere is like illusion; in
the ultimate, the nature of dharmas is emptiness; finally, both are
nondual without differentiation.
Thus, if the foundation (morality), preparation (reflection),
meditation, conclusion (dedication of merit and recollection) and the
process of practice taken as a whole each be multiplied by three (in
correspondence to the three stages of cause, path and result), all the
paths of virtue are gathered together in fifteen factors.
Whoever strives to perfect these (fifteen) factors in each performance
of virtue enjoys the happiness of fortunate states and accumulates
oceans of the Two Collections (merit and transcendent wisdom).
Through the clarity of his meditation, he becomes joined with the Aryan
Path and increases in transcendent wisdom as a result of his meditation
and noble conduct. Then, attaining the goal (of Buddhahood) through
coursing along the final stages of the Path, he puts an end to all
thought constructions by realising the nature of mind to be pure from
the very beginning. (His mind) becomes one flavour with the
Dharmadhatu and is transformed into the Svabhavikakaya which is the
transcendent wisdom of Dharmadhatu and the knowledge of the perfection
For him, the dharmas of worldly existence become transformed through
the practice of the path so that his body becomes the Body (of an
Enlightened One) adorned by (112) marks and signs of perfection His
voice becomes (the Voice of the Buddha) endowed with sixty tones; his
mind is transformed into Transcendent Wisdom and is also endowed with
omniscience. Passions are transformed into the boundless virtues of the
Conqueror and constitute the Sambhogakaya. His deeds are transformed
into the 'Task-Accomplishing Wisdom' and the countless kinds of
enlightened activity which form the Nirmanakaya.
These five wisdoms constitute the perfect realisation of the
Enlightened One and, inasmuch as He is also endowed with spiritual
power, they are unending and uninterrupted. May you also, O emperor,
become like Him!
Through the merit of offering this gift of Dharma which summarises the
deep sense of the noble path, may all living beings with you, O king,
as their chief, quickly attain the highest stage of enlightenment.
My own mind, too, has become encouraged by composing these lines as a
gift of doctrine and so I shall speak further of another matter:
undistractedly hear it, O Lord among Beings!
The time when you should make efforts is now: make firm the good
fortune you have, ensure long life and the success of your lineage and
practise right methods to gain liberation
It is right to make efforts without distraction. At a time when Dharma
has not yet set like a sun and a religious king like yourself sits on
the throne, how can your mind remain indifferent to the plight of those
who wear saffron robes?
Though I am not old, the strength of my body is slight and my mind
inclines to be lazy; therefore I wish to be excused for awhile that I
may seek Dharma's meaning in solitude.
(Compilation of dialogues, words of advice, and reflections of Palden Atisha.)
Translated under Geshe Wangyal
One time Atisha was asked by his disciples, "What is the highest teaching of the path?"
Atisha replied: "The highest skill is in the realization of egolessness.
The highest nobility is in
subduing your own mind. The highest excellence is in having a mind which seeks to help others.
The highest precept is continual mindfulness. The highest remedy is in understanding the
naturelessness of everything. The highest activity is not to conform with worldly concerns. The
highest accomplishment is the lessening and transmutation of the passions. The highest giving
is found in non-attachment. The highest moral practice is a peaceful mind. The highest patience
is humility. The highest effort is to abandon attachment to activities. The highest meditation is
the mind without pretension. The highest wisdom is not to grasp anything as it appears."
Upon leaving the Western province of Nari, Atisha gave the following parting advice to his
assembled disciples: "Friends, until you have obtained enlightenment, the spiritual teacher is
needed; therefore depend upon the holy spiritual teacher. Until you fully realize the nature of
voidness, you must listen to the Teaching; therefore listen closely to the precept of the teacher.
Merely understanding the Dharma is not enough to become enlightened, you must practice
"Go far away from any place that is harmful to your practice; always stay in a place that is
conducive to virtue. Clamour is harmful until you obtain a firm mind; therefore stay in an
isolated place. Abandon friends who increase your fettering passions; depend on friends who
cause you to increase virtue. Bear this in mind. There is never an end of things to do, so limit
your activities. Dedicate your virtue day and night, and always be mindful.
"Once you have obtained the precept of the teacher, you should always meditate on it and
act in harmony with his speech. When you do this with great humility, the effects will manifest
without delay. If you act according to the Dharma from the depths of your heart, both food
and necessities will come naturally.
"Friends, there is no satisfaction in the things you desire. It is like drinking sea water to satisfy
thirst. Therefore be content. Annihilate all forms of pretentiousness, pride and conceit; be
subdued and peaceful. Abandon all that which some call virtue, but which is really an obstacle
to the practice of Dharma. As if they were stones on a narrow slippery path, you should clear
away all ideas of gain and respect, for they are the rope of the devil. Like snot in your nose, blow
out all thoughts of fame and praise, for they serve only to beguile and delude.
"As the happiness, pleasure and friends you have accumulated are of but a moment's duration,
turn your back on them. Future life is longer than this life, so carefully secure your treasure of
virtue to provide for the future. You leave everything behind when you die; do not be attached
"Leave off depising and deprecating others and generate a compassionate mind to those who
are your inferiors. Do not have deep attachment to your friends and do not discriminate against
your enemies. Without being jealous or envious of others' good qualities, with humility take up
those good qualities yourself. Do not bother examining the faults of others, but examine your
own faults. Purge yourself of them like bad blood. Nor should you concentrate on your own
virtues; rather respect those as a servant would. Extend loving-kindness to all beings as though
they were your own children.
"Always have a smiling face and a loving mind. Speak honestly and without anger. If you go
about saying many senseless things, you will make mistakes; thus speak in moderation. If you
do many sensless things, your virtuous work will cease; give up actions that are not religious.
It is useless to make effort in unessential work. Because whatever happen to you comes as a
result of your karma from long ago, results never match your present desires. Therefore be calm.
"Alas, it is far better to die than to cause a holy person shame; you should therefore always
be straightforward and without deceit. All the misery and happiness of this life arise from the
karma of this and previous lives; do not blame others for your circumstances.
"Until you subdue yourself, you cannot subdue others; therefore, first subdue yourself.
As you are unable to ripen others without clairvoyance, make a great effort to achieve
"You will surely die, leaving behind whatever wealth you have accumulated, so be careful
not to gather defilement due to wealth. As distracting enjoyments are without substance,
adorn yourself with the virtue of giving. Always keep pure moral practice, for it is beautiful
in this life and ensures happiness in future lives. In this world-age of the Kaliyuga, where
hatred is rampant, don the armour of patience, which nullifies anger. We remain in the world
by the power of sloth; thus we must ignite like a great fire the effort of achievement. Moment
after moment your life is wasted led by the lure of worldly activities; it is time to meditate.
Because you are under the influence of wrong views, you do not realize the nature voidness.
Zealously seek the meaning of reality!
"Friends, samsara is a vast swamp in which there is no real happiness; hurry to the place
of liberation. Meditate according to the precept of the teacher and dry up the river of samsaric
misery. Always keep this in mind. Listen well to this advice, which is not mere words but
comes straight from my heart. If you follow these precepts you will make not only me happy,
but yourselves and all others as well. Though I am ignorant, I urge you to remember these
At another time, Atisha stated: "This Kaliyuga is not the time to display your ability; it is the
time to persevere through hardship. It is not the time to take a high position, but the time to
be humble. It is not the time to rely on many attendants, but the time to rely on isolation. Nor
is it the time to subdue disciples; it is the time to subdue yourself. It is not the time to merely
listen to words, but the time to contemplate their meaning. Nor is it the time to go visiting here
and there; it is the time to stay alone."
When the venerable Atisha was staying in Yerpadrak, near Lhasa, he gave the following precept:
"Noble sons, reflect deeply on these words. In the Kaliyuga lives are short and there is much to
be understood. The duration of life is uncertain; you do not know how long you will live. Thus you
must make great effort now to fulfil your right desires.
"Do not proclaim yourself a monk if you obtain the necessities of life in the manner of a layman.
Though you live in a monastery and have given up worldly activities, if you fret about what you
have given up, you have no right to proclaim, 'I am a monk living in a monastery.' If your mind
still persists in desire for pretty things and still produces harmful thoughts, do not proclaim, 'I am
a monk living in a monastery.' If you still go about with worldly people and waste time in worldly,
senseless talk with those with whom you live, even though you are living in a monastery, do not
proclaim, 'I am a monk living in a monastery.' If you are impatient and go about feeling slighted,
if you cannot be even the least bit helpful to others, do not proclaim, 'I am a bodhisattva-monk.'
"If you speak thus to worldly people, you are a great liar. You may get away with saying such
things. However, you cannot deceive those who have the boundless sight of clairvoyance, nor
can you deceive those who have the Dharma eye of great omniscience. Neither can you deceive
yourself, for the effects of karma follow after you.
"To stay in a monastery it is necessary to give up worldly ways and attachment to friends
and relatives. By renouncing these, you are getting rid of all the co-operating causes of
attachment and longing. From then on you must seek the precious mind of enlightenment. Not
even for an instant should you allow your past obsession with worldly concerns to arise. Formerly,
you did not properly practise the Dharma, and under the influence of past habits that sapped
your strength, you continually produced the concepts of a worldly person. Because such concepts
are predominant, unless you make use of strong antidotes to them, it is useless to remain in a
monastery. You would be like the birds and wild animals that live there.
"In short, staying in a monastery will not be helpful if you do not reverse your obsession
for fine things and do not renounce the activities of this life. For if you do not cut off these
inclinations, thinking that you can work for the aims of both this and future lives, you will
perform nothing but incidental religious practice. This type of practice is nothing but
hypocritical and pretentious practice done for selfish gain.
"Therefore, you should always seek spiritual friends and shun bad company. Do not become
settled in one place or accumulate many things. Whatever you do, do in harmony with the
Dharma. Let whatever you do be a remedy for the fettering passions. This is actual religious
practice; make great effort to do this. As your knowledge increases, do not be possessed by
the demon of pride.
"Staying in an isolated place, subdue yourself. Have few desires and be contented. Neither
delight in your own knowledge nor seek out the faults of others. Do not be fearful or anxious.
Be of good will and without prejudice. Concentrate on the Dharma when distracted by wrong
"Be humble, and, if you are defeated, accept it gracefully. Give up boastfulness; renounce
desire. Always generate the compassionate mind. Whatever you do, do in moderation. Be
easily pleased and easily sustained. Run like a wild animal from whatever would entrap you.
"If you do not renounce worldly existence, do not say you are holy. If you have not renounced
land and agriculture, do not say that you have entered the Sangha. If you do not renounce
desire, do not say you are a monk. If you are without love and compassion, do not say you are a
bodhisattva. If you do not renounce activity, do not say you are a great meditator. Do not cherish
"In short, when you stay at a monastery, engage in few activities and just meditate on the
Dharma. Do not have cause for repentance at the time of death."
Within the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra there is a section representing meditation. Meditation practice can be of several types. For example, meditation can be divided into tranquility and insight. The first stanza describes meditation practice in general. What is meant by Mahamudra is the recognition of the mind's nature and being able to rest in this. This stanza discusses meditation in three points. The first point is that practice is corrupted by effortful intellectual contrivance, or trying to control what happens in meditation. It is the thought, "I must experience the mind as emptiness and lucidity." Any effort to control the mind is an effort to change the mind. You are not observing the mind. This is called "rainbow meditation", because it is trying to get something better than the mind's nature. Meditation is maintenance of a state that is unaltered, but that does not mean letting the mind be wild and uncontrolled., The second point is the defect to be eliminated is to allow distractions to disturb the mind. Mahamudra is neither controlling the mind or or letting it stay in bewilderment. In the absence of these two defects what are you doing? You rest in the natural state of mind without attempting to improve or change what it is. By doing this and avoiding the two previous defects you are working with the mind. That is the third point.
The point made is that the state of meditation needs to be free of contrivance and distraction. First there is an explanation of tranquility. The physical posture one takes in tranquility meditation is described as the seven techniques of Vairocana. The mental techniques vary according to the type of meditation. There is meditation with and without support. Meditation with support is subdivided into meditation with internal and with external support. Forms of meditation with external support include concentrating on an impure object, such as a stick or stone, or a pure object, such as the form of the Buddha. A form of meditation with internal support is meditation on the breath, which is widely practiced. The meditation described in this stanza is meditation without support. The image of water, particularly an ocean, shows the relation between mind and the things that disturb it. The first thing we concerned with is pacification of thought, since it inhibits the minds clarity. If you want to see through the water, it must be transparent. Two things obstruct this. One is waves and the other is sediment. In the same way two things disturb the mind, thoughts and torpor. If thoughts and torpor are removed from the mind, it is clear. Sometimes thoughts are coarse and other times they subtle. They obstruct transparency like waves obstruct the transparency of water. Torpor is like sediment. If thoughts are pacified and mind is not allowed to become dull, then the mind is neither distracted nor dull. The mind is lucid and transparent. What is difference between this lucidity and insight? Lucidity lacks the clarity of discernment that is in insight. The clarity described here comes from the stillness of mind
The next stanza describes insight. The physical posture remains the same as in tranquility, except that the gaze is raised. This stanza describes what you do with the mind. You look at your mind. What is meant by this? You are not looking at any object separate from the mind, nor is there anything looking at the mind that is separate from what is looked at. Nevertheless you still can look even though there is no subject looking or object looked at. What you clearly see is that there is nothing to be seen. But you see this clearly. People often ask how do I know if I am seeing mind's nature? When you see the mind's nature in direct experience, it brings you out of any sort of doubt of the mind being one thing or another. So it brings you out of doubt about mind's nature.
We begin with tranquility because we have beginningless habit of thinking and can't stop it by wanting to. We have to consciously cultivate tranquility. When you achieve a state of stillness, the kleshas are weakened but not eliminated. This is because tranquility lacks the discernment which can eliminate them. Insight is internally the recognition of the selflessness of persons and externally the recognition of the selflessness of things. One eliminates the kleshas through discernment. When one seeks the nature in all things in general, first one looks at this nature in one's mind. The nature of mind is like that of any other thing, but one can see it as a direct object in the mind. Then one discovers the nature of all things naturally. But the resolution of nature of all things is still required. When you remain in a state of recognition and look out at objects you discover that there is no separation between mind and objects and discover there are no external objects. And you also discover there is no separate subject. By looking at both the duality of subject and object is eliminated. That is what is described in this stanza.
That completes the section on the eradication of misapprehensions of the nature. The next stanza describes synonyms for this meditation. Is tranquility alone sufficient for seeing the nature? No, it is not sufficient. Is Mahamudra insight alone sufficient? No, because it lacks the stability to relinquish kleshas. We need both the stability of tranquility and discernment if insight. We need the union of both to overcome obscurations. This stanza gives the definition of Mahamudra and synonyms or other names for this state. Mahamudra is explained as being freed from mental engagement. This is being free of the stain of intellectual contrivance. It is free of any attempt to judge or influence the nature of mind, or from seeking good or bad. All attempts to alter the mind stray from mind's nature and are bewilderment. Gampopa said it based on the teaching of the Uttaratantra Shastra. It says there is nothing that needs to be removed or added. Look with what is genuine at what is genuine and you will gain genuine liberation. Mind has no defect and lacks nothing. The only problem is we don't see it as it is. We need to gain certainty in the nature by seeing it as it is. That will bring liberation. It can be called the Great Middle Way. It is free of the concepts of any limit or extreme, such as permanence or nothingness. Because it contains the essence of all instructions it is also called the Great Perfection. So Mahamudra is also the Great Middle Way and the Great Perfection.
Mahamudra and the Great Perfection are the same in essence and the same is true of the Great Middle Way. The practice of the Great Perfection is subdivided into Trekchod (break through) and Thogyal (spontaneous presence). The first is the practice that leads to the recognition of the nature of mind. The view and practice of Mahamudra are also looking at the nature of mind. So fundamentally they are the same. Mahamudra does not have any equivalent to Thogyal, the instructions of spontaneous presence. In Thogyal you use your body in special way to experience sights and sounds that enhance your understanding of the nature. But because they arise through method, if they are not grounded in mind's nature, they remain just experiences. After recognition of the mind's nature they are very helpful. But without this recognition, one would see these things, but they would not be of any use, because there is no realization to be enhanced. The single most important point is the recognition of mind's nature. In the Kagyu tradition this recognition is enhanced by the practice of the Six Dharmas of Naropa. They are not the practice of Mahamudra per se. But their purpose is to realize Mahamudra. If they bring you to realization, they have served their purpose. Without realization these practices may bring some experience, but it is of no lasting value. The practice of Chandali brings experience of warmth but its main intent is to lead to realization. Outside this context, it may bring warmth, but it is of no other benefit. If it is combined with Mahamudra, then it will be of great benefit. Recognition of the nature of mind is of prime importance. In order to practice Thogyal or the Six Yogas you must have the ground of recognition of the nature of the mind.
As further illustration of the inseparability of Mahamudra and Great Perfection, we find words of Jigme Lingpa are accord with a stanza in the Aspiration Prayer of Mahamudra. The identification of the nature of mind is identical in both traditions. Trekchod, or break through, is the more important practice in Great Perfection and recognition of mind's nature is the most important thing in Mahamudra.
The next stanzas concern the results of meditation practice. This stanza describes the experiences resulting from realization. They are grouped into three types: bliss, lucidity and nonconceptuality. How should we relate to these experiences? We should not fixate on them. They are the natural result of meditation practice. If you fixate on them you will inhibit your progress. You need to guard against the defects of craving and fixation. The experience of bliss can become an object of craving. Clarity can be diverted into conceptualization of perceived characteristics. Non-conceptuality needs to guard against conceptualization. You need to guard these experiences so that they do not become an obstacle to meditation.
We need to remain free of craving and fixation on experiences. As a traditional song of meditation says, even if a positive experience arises, that is not the view. The next stanza presents the characteristics of realization. The first point is a description of realization as transcending all craving for experience. We need to be free of classifying experiences as good or desirable. The next point is the purification of negative thinking. It is dissolved by the recognition of the nature of mind. What remains in its absence is a simple recognition of the nature of mind, called ordinary cognition. So this stanza is an aspiration to realize this nature.
The realization of Mahamudra depends on the practice of tranquility and insight, so how to meditate on their union has been described. There are two aspects to the path: the aspect of meditation on emptiness and the aspect of compassion. The text now shows how the practice of emptiness and compassion are a unity. First we must see nature of compassion. A speculative thinker might think that if there is no truly existent object, there is no need for compassion. If one thinks in this way, one misunderstands emptiness. Emptiness does not transcend compassion. The more one realizes emptiness the more compassion one has. And this is what the next stanza describes.
In one sense there is no reason for compassion because nature of beings is perfect and empty of any defect and not lacking in any quality. Because beings are Buddhas there is no reason for them to suffer. However, beings do not recognize their nature, and while suffering is completely unnecessary, we still do. We don't recognize our wisdom and emptiness, so we wander in samsara. And in and of itself samsara is endless. Beings are profoundly unhappy wandering in samsara. The start is to mistake self appearance as phenomena. From this we develop kleshas, then karma, and as a result wander through the six realms. The lower three realms are nothing but suffering. While the three higher realms enjoy pleasure, it is temporary and subject to loss. And this will not stop of itself. Because we are Buddhas we don't need to suffer. Because we don't realize it, we do. When you recognize your nature and see how beings suffer, it increases your compassion, because you see how it is all unnecessary.
In that way when the authentic samadhi of Mahamudra is achieved, great compassion arises. One might doubt that despite the relation between emptiness and compassion, they must arise alternately. One might think that when emptiness arises there is no compassion, and there is no perception of emptiness when compassion arises. This doubt is refuted by the next stanza. The realization of emptiness brings along nonreferential compassion. It is unbearably strong and unceasing. But it does not cause you to see sentient beings as existent or compassion as existent. While you give rise to compassion, it does not lessen your sense of emptiness. Instead emptiness brings up your sense of compassion because you realize how beings fail to see it. Emptiness and compassion are a true unity. Neither emptiness or compassion alone can lead to Buddhahood. Compassion keeps you from achieving a personal nirvana and emptiness leads to liberation. These two are unified in Mahamudra practice and this stanza aspires that you practice in that way.
With that stanza the presentation of meditation is complete. The next stanzas describe the immediate and long term results of practice. The result of practice of Mahamudra, which is the union of emptiness, compassion, tranquility, and insight is the achievement of all qualities on the path. The first qualities one realizes are the five eyes and six supercognitions. This refers to various aspects of supercognition and miraculous powers. They arise on bodhisattva levels and become perfect at Buddhahood. There are seven impure bodhisattva levels and three pure. Three abilities are developed on the pure levels, the ability to ripen and mature others, the ability to purify realms, or to create pure realms, and the ability to accomplish all your aspirations for Buddhadharma. They Become progressively greater on the three highest bhumis and when they are complete one reaches Buddhahood.
The last stanza is a conclusion. This concludes all of the aspirations that have been made, starting with aspiration for a perfect support, to perfectly practice Mahamudra, and the aspiration to achieve results of the practice of Mahamudra. Here you invoke compassion of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas and all their virtue and dedicate it to the achievement of these aspirations. They are not made for oneself alone, but for all beings. One aspires that all beings practice Mahamudra and achieve Buddhahood. In that way you conclude the prayer.
That concludes a brief explanation of the practice. If you have doubts or questions, please ask and I will answer in hopes that it may be of benefit to you.
Q: Many students are interested to shamathha and vipasyana, but not interested in ngondro and yidam practices. How can those students be guided?
A: If students want to only to do these practices, they should practice them and by doing so realize the nature of their minds. If they can do that, it's a great path. But some students might get tired of uniformity of this practice and want some other practice. They might get tired and lose diligence. So they might want to supplement their practice with the path of means. The practice of ngondro might help these students. In addition if they practice meditation on a yidam, they might get the blessing of the deity and gain certainty of the deity and thus not feel they have fallen into a rut. There are some people for which shamatha and vippasyana are sufficient. And for some it is not. People should practice what they honestly feel is best for them. Lojong says keep to the principle witness. This means look to your experience and practice accordingly.
Q: Could you explain the difference between sutra and tantra Mahamudra.
A: Sutra Mahamudra refers to the practice where abhiseka is not given. One practices tranquility and insight in the manner that has been pointed out. In tantra Mahamudra, the practice involves empowerment and the generation stage of Vajrayogini and the Six Yogas of Naropa. The result is the same but the methods are different.
Q: I have had two interviews with Rinpoches in the West where I have not been told the truth and this is confusing to me
A: In general great value is placed on truth in Buddhism. We use it to refer to the accurate description of the nature of things, such as the two truths. But genuine or right speech does not necessarily mean telling the truth. It means speaking in the way that is most beneficial. Sometimes truth can be harmful and it can be more beneficial to lie. For example, a hunter might ask which way a deer goes. In this case it is best not to tell the truth. To insist rigidly on always telling the truth is being naively stubborn and rigid.
Q: When you observe the nature of mind, with what mind do we do this and who are we when we do this?
A: When you look at your mind, you don't experience a mind in one place being looked at and a faculty that is looking at it. If you actually do it based on confidence and devotion to the instructions of the siddhas of past, then if you look, you discover there is the possibility for direct discovery. If you think about it theoretically, you think there must be a separate looker. But if you look you see there is nothing to be seen. You directly experience what it is. The only way you can see this is with direct experience. Thinking about it will never make sense.
Q: In Great Perfection the nature of mind is introduced by teacher and then the student meditates on it. Is it the same in Mahamudra? Or do you simply meditate in tranquility and insight?
A: The custom of direct introduction to mind's nature exists in the Mahamudra tradition just as it does in the Great Perfection. It is called guidance on the mind. Mind's nature is pointed out in both traditions. It often produces a great experience on part of the student, but this experience is not stable and tends to disappear over time. Another way to practice Mahamudra is for the student to practice tranquility and the teacher to show various ways to look at mind's nature. Then the student is able to scrutinize the mind methodically and come to a decisive understanding of the view. In my experience the second way seems to have better results. The result is not based on a specific feeling, it is based on the individual's scrutiny of mind. Since the recognition is through one's own effort, it tends not to vanish. Though the most fortunate are able to maintain the experience of pointing out, others do not. So in my experience gradual practice is better.
Practice in Everyday Life
by HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The everyday practice of Dzogchen is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to all situations without limit.
We should realise openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.
We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole. This practice releases tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life.
Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.
When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.
We shouldn't make a division in our meditation between perception and field of perception. We shouldn't become like a cat watching a mouse. We should realise that the purpose of meditation is not to go "deeply into ourselves" or withdraw from the world. Practice should be free and non-conceptual, unconstrained by introspection and concentration.
Vast unoriginated self-luminous wisdom space is the ground of being - the beginning and the end of confusion. The presence of awareness in the primordial state has no bias toward enlightenment or on-enlightenment. This ground of being which is known as pure or original mind is the source from which all phenomena arise. It is known as the great mother, as the womb of potentiality in which all things arise and dissolve in natural self-perfectedness and absolute spontaneity.
All aspects of phenomena are completely clear and lucid. The whole universe is open and unobstructed - everything is mutually interpenetrating.
Seeing all things as naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realise. The nature of phenomena appears naturally and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness. Everything is naturally perfect just as it is. All phenomena appear in their uniqueness as part of the continually changing pattern. These patterns are vibrant with meaning and significance at every moment; yet there is no significance to attach to such meanings beyond the moment in which they present themselves.
This is the dance of the five elements in which matter is a symbol of energy and energy a symbol of emptiness. We are a symbol of our own enlightenment. With no effort or practice whatsoever, liberation or enlightenment is already here.
The everyday practice of Dzogchen is just everyday life itself. Since the undeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or attempt to attain anything above and beyond what you actually are. There should be no feeling of striving to reach some "amazing goal" or "advanced state."
To strive for such a state is a neurosis which only conditions us and serves to obstruct the free flow of Mind. We should also avoid thinking of ourselves as worthless persons - we are naturally free and unconditioned. We are intrinsically enlightened and lack nothing.
When engaging in meditation practice, we should feel it to be as natural as eating, breathing and defecating. It should not become a specialised or formal event, bloated with seriousness and solemnity. We should realise that meditation transcends effort, practice, aims, goals and the duality of liberation and non-liberation. Meditation is always ideal; there is no need to correct anything. Since everything that arises is simply the play of mind as such, there is no unsatisfactory meditation and no need to judge thoughts as good or bad.
Therefore we should simply sit. Simply stay in your own place, in your own condition just as it is. Forgetting self-conscious feelings, we do not have to think "I am meditating." Our practice should be without effort, without strain, without attempts to control or force and without trying to become "peaceful."
If we find that we are disturbing ourselves in any of these ways, we stop meditating and simply rest or relax for a while. Then we resume our meditation. If we have "interesting experiences" either during or after meditation, we should avoid making anything special of them. To spend time thinking about experiences is simply a distraction and an attempt to become unnatural. These experiences are simply signs of practice and should be regarded as transient events. We should not attempt to re-experience them because to do so only serves to distort the natural spontaneity of mind.
All phenomena are completely new and fresh, absolutely unique and entirely free from all concepts of past, present and future. They are experienced in timelessness.
The continual stream of new discovery, revelation and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of our clarity. We should learn to see everyday life as mandala - the luminous fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being. Therefore we should be natural and spontaneous, accepting and learning from everything. This enables us to see the ironic and amusing side of events that usually irritate us.
In meditation we can see through the illusion of past, present and future - our experience becomes the continuity of nowness. The past is only an unreliable memory held in the present. The future is only a projection of our present conceptions. The present itself vanishes as soon as we try to grasp it. So why bother with attempting to establish an illusion of solid ground?
We should free ourselves from our past memories and preconceptions of meditation. Each moment of meditation is completely unique and full of potentiality. In such moments, we will be incapable of judging our meditation in terms of past experience, dry theory or hollow rhetoric.
Simply plunging directly into meditation in the moment now, with our whole being, free from hesitation, boredom or excitement, is enlightenment.
A Bodhisattva Should Act in Difficult Situations
The following passage describes the mental equanimity of bodhisattvas, which enables them to cope with the most difficult situations without becoming agitated.
[Buddha:] `Bodhisattvas, great beings, are not afraid when in a wilderness infested with wild animals. For it is their duty to renounce everything for the sake of all sentient beings. Therefore, they should react with the thought: "If these wild animals devour me, then just that will be my gift to them. The perfection of generosity will become more perfect in me, and I will come nearer to full enlightenment. And after I have won full enlightenment, I will make sure that in my buddha land there will be no animals at all, that there will be no conception of them, but that all beings in it will live on heavenly food."
`Moreover, bodhisattvas, great beings, should not be afraid in a wilderness infested with robbers. For bodhisattvas take pleasure in the wholesome practice of renouncing all their belongings. Bodhisattvas must cast away even their bodies and must renounce all that is necessary for life. They should react to danger with the thought: "If those beings take away from me everything that is necessary to life, then let that be my gift to them. If someone robs me of my life, I should feel no ill-will, anger, or fury on account of that. Even against them I should take no offensive action, either by body, speech, or mind. This will be an occasion to bring the perfections of generosity, ethics, and patience to greater perfection, and I will get nearer to full enlightenment. When I have attained full enlightenment, I will act and behave in such a way that in my buddha land wildernesses infested with robbers will not exist, or even be conceivable. And my exertions to bring about perfect purity in that buddha land will be so great that in it neither these nor other faults will exist, or even be conceivable."
`Furthermore, in a waterless waste also bodhisattvas should not be afraid. For their character is such that they are not alarmed or terrified. They should resolve that their own training might result in removing all thirst from all beings. They should not tremble when they think that if they die from thirst they will be reborn as hungry ghosts. On the contrary, they should direct a thought of great compassion toward all beings and think: "Alas, certainly those beings must be of small merit if in their world such fates are conceivable. After I have won enlightenment, I will see to it that in my buddha land no such fates exist, or are even conceivable. And I will give to all beings so much merit that they will have the most excellent water. Thus will I exert firm effort on behalf of all beings, so that on that occasion also the perfection of effort will become more perfect in me...."
`Furthermore, bodhisattvas will not be afraid in a district infested by epidemics. But they should consider, reflect, and think that "there is no phenomenon here that sickness could oppress, nor is that which is called `sickness' a phenomenon." In that manner they should contemplate emptiness, and they should not be afraid. But they should not think that "it will be an incredibly long time before I will attain full enlightenment," and they should not tremble at such a thought. For that thought-moment is the extreme limit of something that has no beginning; in other words, it is the absence of a limit.
`Bodhisattvas should therefore avoid allowing their minds to dwell on difficulties and should think that "great and long is this limit that has no beginning, for it is connected with one single thought-moment; in other words, it is the absence of a limit." This will prevent bodhisattvas from trembling at the thought that it will be a long time before they will attain full enlightenment.
`Moreover, Subhuti, if these and other fears and terrors--whether they are due to something seen, heard, felt or known--do not cause bodhisattvas to tremble, then one should know that those sons or daughters of good lineage are capable of knowing full enlightenment. Bodhisattvas should therefore put on the great armor of the thought: "I will act in this way, I will exert strong effort so that, after I have attained complete, unsurpassed enlightenment, all beings in my buddha land will not suffer from sickness, and they will not even know what it is. I will act in such a way that I will teach what the Tathagatas have taught and will practice what I have taught. And I will master the perfection of wisdom, for the sake of all beings, in such a way that on that occasion also the perfection of wisdom will come to fulfillment in me."