“Mindfulness is like a guardian or protector that reminds us, “Do not get lost in that thought—look at it!” Be mindful, and no matter what arises within the space of mind, do not become mesmerized. We don’t need to do anything more than this—awareness alone is sufficient. When we look directly at a thought, it simply dissolves and we instantly reach the center of the true nature. Then just relax.
Although this is a very simple meditation, it’s not easy. The moment one thought is liberated, another one erupts. When this happens, do not feel bad. Use the same technique. Use your mindfulness like radar. Hone in on that thought and gaze right at it. The thought will naturally dissolve. Again, relax. Maintain the natural state—that’s the intention and the practice. Do not fabricate additional thoughts about what just happened. Do not anticipate or strategize about what may lie ahead. Do not judge or analyze your meditation. Be free from past and future, hope and fear. Stay in the center.
Here the great master Shigpo Dudtsi reiterates that whenever a thought arises, all we need to do is look at it and relax. Nothing more is necessary. To achieve stability in this, we need continuous joyful effort and devotion, courage and commitment. Cultivate these beautiful qualities without grasping, and then let them dissolve into the natural state just as you would any other thought. It’s important to remember that we must be patient. We cannot expect immediate results—we have to practice continuously, over time. And we need to gather and focus our energy. If we’re always busy, we won’t have much time for meditation, or we’ll be too tired when we try. This is not good for a practitioner.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Beauty of Awakened Mind (pg 145)
Photos from Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche’s public talk “Healing Medicine for an Abundant Life” sponsored by the Palm Beach Dharma Center on November 11, 2017. Photos by Mark McDonnell and Karin Kearney.
“Without devotion, there’s nowhere we can go because devotion is the recognition and trust in our own goodness qualities, and how we glorify and share them with others.
Eventually our interest, joy, and appreciation develop so much that they become confident and unfailing devotion, which is so deep and powerful. By using our reasoning and the experience and knowledge we gain by applying the teachings, we develop a confidence in our own goodness qualities and in the genuine goodness of others. We really feel that this is how the nature is, and we want to express our true nature of love and compassion without any fear or hesitation. Based on this understanding, we begin to engage in the teachings with an incredible sense of joy and appreciation.
When we have this kind of devotion, realization and the blessings of the Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava come so easily. Their blessings directly enter our hearts and minds, and our realization grows very quickly and naturally. As we continue to apply the teachings, eventually we will cultivate this kind of devotion, and then even a simple Dharma teaching will become so powerful and strong, and we will progress very well.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Preface to The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Volume 1 (pg 48)
Photo of Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche from the 1990s.
“Everything that we perceive and conceive of now is deluded. All of the appearances that the beings of the six realms experience are deluded. Wisdom will never come from delusion; we cannot remove delusion through delusion. Also, we cannot develop anything new from the state of delusion because the original nature is pure. The deluded nature is empty and pure from the beginning since there is no true, solid core that exists in anything. Everything is emptiness. In other words, we can say that delusion is emptiness. Emptiness is free from all labels, imputed phenomena, and mistaken perceptions. It is therefore called originally pure. We only have temporary mistakes in our mind. But where are these mistakes really? They are only in our mind. If we start searching for these mistakes in our mind, eventually we will realize that there are no permanent mistakes that we can find because their nature is emptiness.
What we are pointing out is our grasping. But where does grasping exist? There is no substantial, solidly existing grasping. Grasping and all of our mistakes are originally empty. We don’t have to go far away to find this emptiness. It is right here. Our grasping and dualistic conceptual mistakes are empty. They have no true foundation. That is why the Buddha and so many great masters said that grasping and obscurations are like clouds in the sky. They develop temporarily without any base. They are just hanging over the sky-like nature of mind. If we recognize this nature and abide in the nature as it is, then grasping will naturally be removed and cleared away.
In the Beacon of Certainty [nges shes sgron me], Mipham Rinpoche said that obscurations do not truly exist because they are empty. The nature of obscurations is empty, and the nature of emptiness is pure. Impure emptiness does not exist. Therefore impurity does not actually, solidly exist. It is empty.
Mistakes and obscurations are merely misconceptions that sentient beings hold onto. The nature is pure and free from these obscurations. For that reason, Buddha Shakyamuni taught that form is emptiness by form, sound is emptiness by sound, smell is emptiness by smell, and thought is emptiness by thought. Forms, sounds, smells, thoughts, everything is naturally empty. The nature of obscurations is empty, so we can purify them. If they were not empty, we could not purify them. Of course, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ are just labels of duality mind. In truth, obscurations are self-empty. They do not become empty through practice—they have always been empty and pure from the beginning. This is why in Tibetan Buddhism there is a philosophy called Rangtong, which means self-empty or naturally empty.
In Dzogchen, every teaching always says that things are self-liberated or originally liberated. There is not a single word in the Atiyoga yana about things being liberated by others, or that somebody else has to liberate our duality conceptions. They are self-liberated, originally liberated. These are the famous pointing out teachings. Therefore, there is nothing that has to be removed from this deluded state because delusion itself is in the state of emptiness. Every delusion is in the originally pure state of the Buddha and is empty. There is nothing to be removed from this. Relaxing our mind in this state of emptiness—the original state of one’s own mind—that is the Buddha. While we rest in this natural state, we will begin to perceive things. These are known as the pure, divine, original appearances of the nature, or the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha.
Once our mind is the natural state of purity and great emptiness free from all duality and grasping, then all of our perceptions will arise in that state, and all appearances will be experienced as pure expressions of great emptiness. This is called chilkhor in Tibetan and mandala in Sanskrit. Mandala refers to the pure body, speech, and mind of the Buddha—one’s original nature. In Tibetan, chil means “center” and khor means “circle,” so we can roughly translate this into English as “coiling to the center.” The entire display of body, speech, and mind are always coiling to the center of the nature, which is emptiness. For sentient beings, all tangible appearances, intangible sound systems, and the entire spectrum and variety of thoughts and emotions, without exception, are coiling to the emptiness nature. In terms of the pure perception of the buddhas, all enlightened forms, sounds, and awareness, or deity, mantra, and dharmakaya, are coiling to and within the divine, pure state of the buddha-nature. It’s not that emptiness is in the center, and everything is moving toward it. Everything—from the center to the edge—is within the state of emptiness.”
Learn more about the “Meaning of Mandala” from Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche during the 2013 Vajrayana Ritual Review Retreat at PSL:
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Turning the Wisdom Wheel of the Nine Golden Chariots:
Chapter 14: Summary of the Nine Yanas According to Atiyoga (pgs 191-193)
Photo of a sand mandala created by the PBC Puerto Rico Sangha for the 2013 Vajrasattva Retreat led by Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche at Pema Tsokye Dorje Ling. Photo by Pema Nyingje.
1. First Turning
Morality (Vinaya or Shila)
= Morality; Karma; Cause and Effect
= Interpretive Meaning (Ngedon) = changeable
2. Second Turning
= Definitive Meaning (Drangdon) = unchanging
3. Third Turning
= Mixture of Interpretive and Definitive Meanings
= Both Relative and Absolute
= what changes and what is unchanging
Three Ways the Buddha Taught
1. Directly Speaking
2. By Blessings (via body, speech, or mind)
3. By Giving Authority to Someone Else
Heart Sutra Dzogchen Retreat
Padma Samye Ling
July 24, 2017
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche leading the 2012 Medicine Buddha Revitalization Retreat at the PSL Medicine Buddha Vajrakilaya Temple.
“The purity or impurity of our vision is, of course, related with duality. Presently, our dualistic tendencies are exceedingly strong, dense, and gross. Thus, our visions are very gross and impure, since duality itself is impure. Duality is fabrication, duality is grasping, and duality is clinging. When our visions are registered, mixed, and filled up with the strength of our grasping, they are known as “habitual patterns.” In this context, our habit patterns are the built up stains and shadows of duality, grasping, clinging, or whatever else we call it.
Duality is very dense, circulating throughout the body on the winds. Right now our winds are so deluded with duality that they are nearly indistinguishable from duality itself. These powerful, blowing duality winds make their imprint on everything they contact, including ourselves. They cast a shadow on our experience, reflecting back to ourselves and mirroring our duality everywhere we look. Duality feeds on itself in the same way that a jaundiced person sees everything as yellow and completely blurry. So while we are covered up by duality, even though we may talk about the “purity nature,” it is almost like we are just telling stories, because the density of the duality surrounding us is blocking the light of our inner wisdom. In terms of the winds, this situation is known as “very regular attachment” or “grasping perceptions with duality wind.” These are the gross duality obscurations we have to purify. Why? Because they are blocking and overshadowing our realization of great blissfulness-emptiness, or the three mandalas. This is all thoroughly explained in the Anuyoga teachings.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Key to Opening the Wisdom Door of Anuyoga (pgs 57-58)
Photo of the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches bestowing empowerment in Russia in 2001.
Enjoy wonderful thoughts and actions of love, compassion, and wisdom!
Watch Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche explain the meaning of this special day:
“By learning the wisdom of the lineage, we appreciate, honor, and respect the teaching. We also learn to joyfully embrace it as unique, beautiful, and precious, while also seeing how anyone with true devotion and bodhichitta can actualize the result. This is not just for a select group of people. The Tantra of the Great Display of Ati, or Ati Kodpa Chenpo Gyu (ati bkod pa’i chen po’i rgyud) says that if we don’t teach the lineage history, students will not develop full confidence in the teachings. In that spirit, we share this so that we can remember these great masters while feeling great joy and appreciation for this teaching of ours, yours, and everyone’s.
The Buddha gave many teachings that the Nyingma school summarizes into the nine yanas. The ninth and highest yana is Dzogchen. As you all know, Dzogchen is known as Great Completion or Great Perfection because all the other eight yanas—from the Hinayana to Vajrayana—are concluded and completed within it.
Beginning with the Hinayana there are the (1) Shravakayana, (2) Pratyekabuddhayana, and (3) Bodhisattvayana, followed by the three Outer Tantras of (4) Kriyayana, (5) Upayogayana, and (6) Yogayana, and finally the three Inner Tantras of (7) Mahayogayana, (8) Anuyogayana, and (9) Atiyogayana. Atiyoga is where the ground, path, and result of all the other eight yanas are completed and included without missing anything.
These teachings were brought to us by the great compassionate teacher, Buddha Shakyamuni, who came into this world over 2,500 years ago.
Some people say that the Buddha only actually taught the Hinayana. Even Mahayana teachings say that the Buddha never taught the Mahayana. Why is that? The Buddha didn’t reveal all of his teachings to the general public all at once because many people were not yet ready or suited for all of them. So the Buddha didn’t force it. Given the highly structured caste and social systems of that time, only the basic Hinayana teachings were appropriate to give openly.
For this reason, the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings were kept secret— the Buddha only gave them to highly capable people in certain areas and different realms. The common public teaching was the Hinayana, which is now known as the Theravada of the southern schools of Buddhism, and the Sarvastivada (thams cad yod par smra ba) of the northern schools of Buddhism. These two schools continue to exist, and what the Buddha taught in the Hinayana are the basic, essential teachings that are common to all the yanas. The Tibetan and Vajrayana teachings came later.
After the Buddha’s mahaparinirvana, there were Seven Patriarchs, or seven representatives of the Buddha. The Buddha himself appointed Mahakashyapa as his regent, and after that seven different great arhats came one after another. During this time, four Hinayana schools called the “four roots of the Hinayana” came into being, and from them, a total of eighteen different Hinayana schools eventually developed.
Among these eighteen schools, only two are left: the southern Theravada schools in places like Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, and the northern Sarvastivada schools in Tibet, Mongolia, and China. Basically, all Mahayana Buddhist schools that follow the Vinaya are Sarvastivada schools.
According to the Mahayana, the Buddha gave Mahayana teachings during his lifetime in many different areas to select groups, but they were kept secret. But about a hundred years after the Buddha’s mahaparinirvana, there was more interest in the Dharma, so these teachings began to shine through, but still very secretly.
About 250 years after the Buddha’s mahaparinirvana, there was a very famous bodhisattva named Vasumitra who came together with as many as 500 other bodhisattvas and recorded all the Mahayana teachings in a higher realm. It was said they collected an elephant load of Mahayana texts of original teachings by the Buddha.
The Vajrayana teachings were kept even more secret than the Mahayana. Although some people were practicing the Sutra Mahayana, not everyone was practicing the Vajrayana. The Vajrayana teachings existed, but were kept very secret, again because of the social structures and the lack of readiness of the people. Many of the great teachings that we know today like Kalachakra, the Eight Herukas, Chakrasamvara, Hayagriva, or Vajrakilaya were kept completely secret.
However, as times changed and people became more ready, the Vajrayana gradually began to shine through more and more, very subtly, but very beautifully. Many who connected with these teachings reached enlightenment within a single lifetime, and in many cases, in just a matter of years. This is how Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhism developed—very beautifully and perfectly as people gradually became more suitable for the teachings in India and beyond.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Supreme Wisdom: Commentary on Yeshe Lama (pgs 177-179)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche turning a Dharma wheel at Tashi Choling in 2015, by Lama Jomo Lorraine.
“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.