“Guru Padmasambhava and Buddha Shakyamuni have both said that we should do three things: study, contemplate, and meditate. At first, study and consider the teachings, then contemplate them. To settle the mind, we must first become aware of the obstacles and obscurations that are masking its true nature. Finally, we are ready to meditate.
Meditation is the fruit of study and contemplation. In this context, meditation doesn’t mean merely sitting calmly and focusing the mind on an external object; here we are resting our mind in the true nature. Since the true nature pervades everything both internally and externally, meditating on it clarifies our view and helps us to fully understand both subjective and objective phenomena. The focus in meditation should be on the nature of the mind itself. This will reveal everything.
Meditation on the true nature yields a lucid clarity and profound openness that is very mysterious. Abiding continuously in that state will cause beautiful qualities like compassion and wisdom to arise and shine naturally. At first, thoughts will become less interesting or insistent. As you learn to abide in deep meditation for longer periods, dualistic conceptions will be completely pacified. When you become freely established in the radiance of the primordial nature, thoughts will become like servants. At that point, you will have a greater capacity to take responsibility for your mental events.
Gradually, a great blissfulness will arise. At that time, there will be no more suffering, but only an unshakable equanimity as you merge with the true nature. Once you gain authority over conceptions and the mind, you become more capable of mastering all the other aspects of your life. Every moment becomes workable because you understand the bardo process.
Listening, contemplating, and meditating are known as the “three wisdoms.” Each of these practices is vital to actualizing our buddha-nature and our abilities to benefit others. First, listen carefully and closely to the teachings you receive. This should encourage and inspire you to make a joyful effort. Do not simply collect teachings—look into the implications and contemplate their meaning. Then, apply them to yourself so that what you’ve received does not merely penetrate your ear and brain. Really connect with the meaning behind the instruction, take it into your heart, and reaffirm the truth of each word with your own understanding. That is known as contemplation. By deeply contemplating the teaching, you will naturally actualize the result known as meditation. Meditation will help mature what you’ve learned so that your knowledge is not simply intellectual or conceptual. Results will ripen as you grow. Although all three are indispensable, meditation is the most important.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1: Chapter Ten: Bardo of Birth and Life (pgs 93-94)
“(1) Perfect Teacher: The one thousand buddhas of the Fortunate Aeon are the perfect teachers, and Buddha Shākyamuni is the fourth among them. This aeon is called “Fortunate” because buddhas will manifest in it, a comparatively rare occurrence in the universe.
(2) Perfect Students: The retinue of students consists of two types: ordinary and extraordinary. Of the ordinary, four kinds were always present whenever Buddha Shākyamuni taught. These included men and women who had taken either monastic or lay vows—in other words, (1) monks, (2) nuns, (3) male lay practitioners, and (4) female lay practitioners. Altogether they are known as the “four common or ordinary gatherings” of Buddha Shākyamuni. Regarding the extraordinary students, these included great bodhisattvas, such as Chenrezig and Mañjushrī, as well as great arhats, such as Shāriputra and Maudgalyāyāna. Nonhuman beings— gods and other celestial beings, for example—were also in attendance. This entire gathering is referred to as the “perfect students.”
(3) Perfect Teaching: The Prajñāpāramitā belongs to the second turning of the wheel of Dharma by Buddha Shākyamuni. In it he revealed the true nature of all phenomena in samsāra and nirvāna.
(4) Perfect Time: According to Buddhist cosmology, our universe was created by the fleeting and fortuitous combination of otherwise disparate elements. This universe is said to be made up of twenty aeons, during which time it will experience eighteen cycles of rising to a “golden age” and falling to a “degenerate age.” We are currently living in a degenerate age of the Fortunate Aeon, a time when spiritual energy is actually at a peak, although the name “degenerate” doesn’t seem to indicate this. Buddha Shākyamuni appeared at the beginning of the present degenerate age. In any case, for those individuals who wish to practice and understand the meaning of Prajñāpāramitā, now is the perfect time.
(5) Perfect Place: Lord Buddha turned the wheel of the Mahāyāna on Vulture Peak Mountain, which Buddhism considers to be the geographic center of the world. This mountain is not so far from the spot where the perfect place allows realization to grow. These are the five perfections.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Ceaseless Echoes of the Great Silence: A Commentary on the Heart Sutra Prajnaparamita (pgs 25-26)
Photo of 2016 PBC NYC Vajrasattva Fire puja.
“There is a story from our own hometown where there was a very famous Dzogchen master who everybody said was the regent of Guru Padmasambhava. He was a very big ngakpa yogi with long hair whose name was Gechag Tsangyang Gyatso. He had so many students that he became one of the most famous teachers of the early twentieth or late nineteenth century. One of his students from our area was named Mondag, who received teachings from Gechag Tsangyang Gyatso and planned to do the practice. He asked all his friends and family members to let him go on retreat and help him take his belongings to a cave far off in the mountains.
Since he believed all phenomena are impermanent, he decided he wouldn’t need anything because these things wouldn’t support what he was doing. So he gave most everything away, and with the help of an assistant, he took just one bag of food and went off to the cave. They reached the cave and his assistant was about to go back home when Mondag gave him his boots, saying, “Please take these too, I don’t need them.” Now his helper argued with him, “Why you don’t keep your boots? Maybe you will need them.” He said, “No, I will not need them because I am not going out of this cave. You can have them.” So the assistant took the boots and Mondag stayed in the cave.
Mondag eventually finished all of his food and was getting very cold because winter was coming. It became so difficult for him that he decided he couldn’t stay there anymore, and one day he showed up in the village. All the villagers saw Mondag coming back without any shoes, but he did he have a sheepskin chuba that he had cut into two strips and wrapped around his feet. They laughed at him and asked why he returned. They joked, “Why did you return now? We thought you were going to go get enlightenment.” Mondag replied, “No, I didn’t get enlightenment, I just got hungry!”
He actually stayed in the cave for many months, but what he committed to in the beginning didn’t exactly match what he was able to fulfill in the end. He had to come back because he lost his commitment. In Tibet, this is sometimes called “bubble commitment”—at first it grows very fast, but then it bursts when the situation becomes too difficult. Therefore, all the teachings say that we should have courage and commitment, but we shouldn’t sacrifice everything in the beginning. In order to make that sacrifice in the end, we need to develop inspiration, courage, and commitment every day along the path, and eventually we will be able to fulfill the big goal.
We remember this yogi Mondag from when we were young and he was quite old. In the end, he was really a good practitioner. Khen Rinpoche says that Mondag was very good to him because he liked our father and grandfather.
The day Mondag died is another very beautiful story. Even though he didn’t exactly fulfill all the goals of his lifetime, he was still a great practitioner. He always meditated. He was a yogi and stayed in hermitage a long time. He really had no family members around because they had all separated and gone away. He just stayed near Gochen Monastery, and then one day he started the dying process. At that time, there was a man there who was from a village far away from our monastery. He was quite renowned as a village spokesman, and a bit of a showoff because he was always saying good things about himself. He was there with everyone else around Mondag’s bedside as he was dying and said, “Mondag, how good everything is that is happening to you now. What a beautiful day you are having! You are dying!” Everyone thought Mondag would get really angry, upset, and feel insulted. However, instead he said, “Yes, it is true. This glory is for me. This is the time that a yogi is releasing habitual grasping to the body. I feel great.” This is how a Dzogchen yogi should be.
Mondag really had a high level of accomplishment. Afterwards, the other man became really humble and devoted, and showed respect for Mondag with prostrations. He had insulted him, but Mondag answered him so beautifully, and then passed away. This is one of the stories of our village.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Supreme Wisdom: Commentary on Yeshe Lama (pgs 124-127)
“Everything that manifests, moves, functions and performs, originally happens within and from the state of dharmakaya.”
Profound Practical Advice Uniting Relative and Absolute Truth
“By combining the second and third turnings of the Wheel of Dharma, we behold the perfect union of clarity and emptiness, without any separation.”
Ven. Khenpo Rinpoches
Opening the Wisdom Door of the Rangtong and Shentong Views: A Brief Explanation of the One Taste of the Second and Third Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche teaching during the 2016 PBC Winter Dzogchen Retreat at Palden Sherab Pema Ling in Jupiter, Florida.
NAMO DÖ NE LHÜN DRUB NYUG ME TSA WA SUM
NAMO The primordial, self-existing, innate three roots
KÜN TU RANG SEM MA YÖ CHAB SU CHI
Are always, without wavering, one’s own mind. Thus, I take refuge.
“The first part of the practice is taking refuge. NAMO is a Sanskrit word that signifies “joyful body, joyful speech, and joyful mind.” The sound of NAMO is an expression of your feeling great devotion and joy toward the objects of refuge.
These two lines express taking refuge from the absolute point of view. You are taking refuge in the primordially pure and spontaneous nature of the mind as being the innate three roots. The three roots—the guru, the yidam, and the dakinis and dharmapalas—are naturally inherent and primordially present as the nature of your mind.
This inherently accomplished primordial nature is the same as the coemergent vajra hero of the sadhana’s title. Taking refuge in the primordial nature is the same as taking refuge in the vajra hero. Since the primordial nature is none other than Vajrakilaya and Guru Padmasambhava, this inherent primordial awareness is symbolized by the guru or Guru Padmasambhava.
Primordial awareness contains the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and loving-kindness, which are symbolized by the deity or yidam. By having compassion, loving-kindness, and wisdom, one performs beneficial activities from that awareness, and the activities are symbolized by the dakinis and dharmapalas. All the three roots are none other than the self-born awareness or the “coemergent vajra hero.” This is the Dzogchen understanding of self-born wisdom.
The second line explains the manner in which we are taking refuge: we are always taking refuge in the primordial nature with an unwavering mind. This has nothing to do with a subject taking refuge in an object. This refuge is simply being in the natural state, without moving away from or going beyond that state. Maintaining one’s awareness of the primordial nature all the time is the ultimate state of taking refuge.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Dark Red Amulet: Oral instructions on the Practice of Vajrakilaya (pg 53)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche drawing the Three Jewels during the 2013 PBC NYC New Years Vajrasattva and Vajrakilaya Meditation Practice.
Throughout the succession of my lives
May I not come under the power of unwholesome thought.
May I always gain power over my mind,
And no matter what, may I accomplish fearless indestructible mind and space-like courage.
“All living beings have the same general wish: we all want to be happy, and free from suffering. This common wish is shared by everyone. It doesn’t matter which country we’re from, what tradition we follow, or what kind of background beliefs we have. Our goal is the same.
We should embrace this deep, common ground we share, and try to respect, appreciate, and have patience with one another. We’re here to learn from one another, support one another, and grow together. Everyone is important and special.
Since we all like happiness and peace, we shouldn’t ignore their causes. We can’t really expect results without their causes. There is nothing we know of where results have arisen without their necessary causes and conditions. So, as much as we love the results, we should also love the causes and conditions behind them. As much as we want to be happy, we have to love the causes for happiness as well.
The foundation of happiness is to bring more joy to our own hearts—joy for who we are and what we have. Many times we ignore what we already have. We’re always looking ahead to somewhere else without looking at our own richness. We look outside to what other’s have, ignoring our own beauty. We should have more joy and appreciation for who we are and what we already have. We’re all such amazing beings who are so fortunate to enjoy one another’s company. Let’s deeply remember our richness, and celebrate and appreciate ourselves and one another.”
The Four Causes of Happiness
by the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Free Download: https://www.padmasambhava.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/spring2014.pdf
Photo of the 2017 PSL Nynugne Retreat on Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion, led by Lama Laia Pema Tsultrim from October 7-9, 2017.
“Compassion is the beneficial thought that moves you to help other sentient beings. It arises when you see their misery and pain, and you feel from the depth of your heart that you want to remove that suffering.
Compassion can be divided into three types. The first is compassion that focuses on sentient beings, the second is compassion that focuses on ignorance, and the third is compassion without any focus. The first type of compassion is easy to understand; if we look closely at the painful situations that sentient beings experience, we feel compassion and want to change their miserable conditions.
The second kind of compassion is directed toward a deeper level; it is compassion for the ignorance that sentient beings have about the true nature of phenomena. Everything about their bodies, possessions, and emotions is constantly changing, but due to ignorance, sentient beings grasp and cling to their lives as if they will last for aeons. Then, when things change, they suffer. This type of compassion focuses on ignorance as the root of all suffering.
The third type of compassion is objectless compassion. The first two types of compassion have objects: the first has the suffering of sentient beings and the second has their ignorance, but the third type has no particular focus. It is the deepest level of compassion; it is the meditation on the absolute state of equanimity. With this kind of compassion there are no distinctions between sentient beings and nonsentient beings; one’s compassion is equal for all. One simply rests in the absolute, natural state, without any particular ideas or judgments. This compassion arises from the realization of emptiness and is free from all desire and duality. This level of meditation is achieved gradually and it is not as easy to under- stand as the first two types of compassion.
Practicing compassion will bring about the recognition of emptiness as the true nature of the mind. When you practice virtuous actions of love and compassion on the relative level, you spontaneously realize the profound nature of emptiness, which is the absolute level. In turn, if you focus your meditation practice on emptiness, then your loving-kindness and compassion will spontaneously grow.
These two natures, the absolute and the relative, are not opposites; they always arise together. They have the same nature; they are inseparable like a fire and its heat or the sun and its light. Compassion and emptiness are not like two sides of a coin. Emptiness and compassion are not two separate elements joined together; they are always coexistent.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Buddhist Path