Get the complete Tibetan text of Mipham’s Sword of Wisdom, excluding the Tibetan that was added from Khenchen’s handwritten annotations, by clicking on the download button to the left.
Get the complete Tibetan text of Mipham’s Sword of Wisdom, including the Tibetan that was added from Khenchen’s handwritten annotations in the margins of his paper copy, by clicking on the download button to the left.
By Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Part 1 of a 4-part series of Sutra Teachings excerpted from the Month-Long Dzogchen Intensive at Padma Samye Ling in March-April, 2006. Edited by Andrew Cook.
During the practice of Dzogchen, we should continually reaffirm our bodhisattva activities and conduct, since practitioners of the Great Perfection are always motivated by the resolve to liberate all sentient beings from the suffering of cyclic existence. All sentient beings deserve to discover their beautiful, innate nature, and become happy and joyful. Actually, Dzogchen is the practice of bodhisattvas, the practice of great love and compassion. For this reason, we must keep the bodhisattvas’ vast view and conduct at the center of all our Dharma activities.
To actualize this bodhisattva conduct, we should extend our inspiration to practice for the benefit of all sentient beings, aspiring to lead each one of them to complete enlightenment. Furthermore, our aspirations should not be limited by borders or restrictions. Buddha Shakyamuni said this many times throughout his teachings, especially in the sutra teachings and in the very special prayer known as the the King of Aspiration Prayers: the Aspiration for Noble Excellent Conduct, which comes from the Avatamsaka Sutra. He explained that as far as space extends, so too infinite sentient beings exist. Each and every one of them has emotions and karma, and is struggling through the difficulties of samsara and delusion. Therefore, our aspirations and prayers should be as limitless as space. This is very important to remember.
But what is the meaning of “aspiration”? It means we should open our hearts by developing love, kindness, and compassion for all living beings, without partiality or restrictions. On a deep level, this aspiration represents our courage, commitment, and willingness to continue along the path for the benefit of everyone. Although we currently do not have the capability to solve the problems of all beings, we can generate the willingness to do so. We are willing to help in whatever way we can, according to our capabilities. We are ready!
Even if we are unable to solve the problems and difficulties of others, at least we are developing the intention to be able to do so in the future, to bring them peace, happiness, and joy in the state of enlightenment. This is how bodhisattvas think and how they engage in beneficial conduct, and it also the goal, vision, and philosophy of Dzogchen practice.
Practitioners who maintain this vast view and willingness to work for the benefit of all sentient beings are known in the Mahayana teachings as “bodhisattvas.” In Sanskrit, bodhi means “enlightenment” and sattva means “courageous.” So, bodhisattvas are “courageous ones for enlightenment.” The resolve and willingness to expand one’s love and compassion is itself enlightenment, or awakened mind. We should maintain our motivation and intention even when we are disturbed by our ego-clinging and negativities.
The distinctions between Mahayana and Hinayana practitioners are not external; they do not relate with how a person looks, speaks, or dresses. The real difference between these two types of practitioners is in their vision, their ideas, and their willingness to attain enlightenment for the sake of beings. For this reason, the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings, as well as the Dzogchen tantras, all distinguish between Mahayana and Hinayana practitioners based upon their bodhichitta—their altruistic intention to attain enlightenment and work for the benefit of limitless sentient beings until everyone reaches the essence of enlightenment. This is the only distinction. Otherwise, both Hinayana and Mahayana practitioners are followers of the Buddha: both practice nonviolence and learn how to benefit others. What differs is the emphasis they place on the willingness to help all sentient beings.
If we practice Dzogchen meditation thinking only of ourselves, our practice is not rooted in the bodhichitta of the Mahayana path. It is incomplete, inauthentic “Dzogchen.” Practicing in this way, we are inserting the element of the ego of the Hinayana mentality into the Mahayana teachings. Thus, even though we may call ourselves Mahayana practitioners, by engaging in this type of practice we are, in reality, Hinayana practitioners.
For all these reasons, the willingness and openness of bodhichitta are extremely important. These qualities make us good people, genuine and beautiful beings. By practicing in this way, we will gradually develop courage and commitment in addition to patience and tolerance. Each of these is very important for practitioners as well as everyone else. “Patience” refers to being more open as opposed to being tight and twisted, afflicted by a narrow mind and the feeling of being cornered. If we carry this narrow mental attitude everywhere we go, we will always feel extremely rigid. Our heads will bounce in every direction!
On the other hand, when we have a more open and vast view, things can change and move. There is more room for our intelligence, wisdom, love, compassion, and goodness. The Buddha appreciated and emphasized the importance of courage and commitment, patience and tolerance. “Tolerance” means the ability to let things come and let them go. As stated in the Dzogchen teachings, liberating phenomena as they arise brings about perfect tolerance and patience. Nothing is going to last forever, since all is impermanent. Practicing with the support of these beautiful thoughts makes our meditation meaningful.
Glorious Conqueror Shakyamuni often taught that all practitioners should uphold and develop the “Eight Intentions of Great Beings.” Once again, we may not be able to immediately accomplish all these courageous intentions, but it is important to generate the willingness to engage in them. We should continue to open our hearts to these practices.
1 The first intention is the willingness in the heart of every practitioner to remove the suffering of all living beings. We should always keep this foremost in our awareness.
2 The second intention is the willingness to lead every living being to the ultimate state of prosperity and happiness, which is buddhahood.
3 The third intention is the willingness to use our bodies in the service of making good things for both ourselves and others. Instead of using our bodies for any and everything, we should use them to benefit all beings.
4 The fourth intention is to always keep in mind the suffering, difficulties, and troubles associated with
the six realms. Among these realms, the inhabitants of the lowest three experience the most difficulty. Therefore, we should help and serve these beings as much as we can. Of course, more immediately we can help animals, since we share a strong connection and are in close contact with these beings. So, the fourth intention is to maintain the powerful thought in our hearts and minds that we are going to help dispel the suffering and solve the problems of all beings in the three lower realms, especially animals, as much as the situation allows.
5 The fifth intention that we as practitioners should always guard in our hearts and minds is to be instrumental in bringing happiness and peace to all living beings by removing their difficulties, not just now, but throughout each of our future lives. Wishing and praying that throughout our lifetimes we will be able to continually help all beings through the actions of our bodies, speech, and minds is the fifth intention.
6 The sixth intention is that we are ready and willing to exchange our joy, peace, and happiness for the difficulties and troubles of others. We have the capability and opportunity to actualize this intention through the practice of tonglen. The openness and willingness to engage in these actions is the sixth intention.
7 The seventh intention is to be able to fulfill the wishes of every living being in answer to their needs. It is the wish that we may fulfill their hopes according to the Dharma, so that they will benefit and thus be able to benefit all other sentient beings.
8 The eighth and final intention is to achieve enlightenment—buddhahood—for the sake of all beings. Regardless of the title we give these intentions, whoever has the willingness to engage in these activities is a bodhisattva, a great and beautiful being. As you all know, the best foundation for these intentions is bodhichitta, which is filled with courage, commitment, and openness. By keeping and igniting these thoughts as much as we can, we will become beautiful followers of the Buddha. When we read the life stories of all the great ancient masters, we see that this is the same teaching they taught and practiced themselves, following in the noble footsteps of the Awakened One.
The essence of the Eight Intentions of Great Beings is one hundred percent unconditional love, compassion, and wisdom. Therefore, these intentions have no connotation of violence, negativity, deceit, or the intention to disturb or take advantage of others. Rather, they represent the authentic nature of the absolute Dharma, which is Dzogchen. We are practicing the Dharma whenever we are in touch with this willingness to benefit sentient beings as much as we can.
Cultivating these intentions is not just beneficial for others: these wonderful thoughts will also help remove our own obscurations, obstacles, and negativities. They will fulfill our own wishes and goals. For this reason, these bodhisattva intentions are known as methods to accumulate merit. Upon developing them, we build up beautiful energy in our mindstreams and physical systems. It is this energy that will bring about realization, which is based upon our accumulation of true merit. Finally, our realization and bodhichitta will naturally reflect to and benefit others.
Uniting these bodhisattva intentions with our practice of Dzogchen will establish a beautiful system of interdependent coordination that will ignite and accelerate our progress, thereby bringing benefit to all beings. We should never allow our Dzogchen meditation to stray from this foundation. By practicing in this way, our realization will flower and its fruit will ripen perfectly. This will make everyone, including ourselves, ever happy and joyful, and we will eventually become beautiful practitioners and great beings. Beginning our journey with this perfect foundation, we will conclude it in the same way, uncovering the innate liberated state in ourselves and all beings.
By: Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and
Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
All living beings have the same general wish: we all want to be happy and free from suffering. Everyone shares this common wish. It doesn’t matter which country we’re from, what tradition we follow, our background, or our beliefs—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 to 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 to appear 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—appreciation 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 at what others have and ignore 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 one another and ourselves.
The first cause of happiness is to see that’s it’s not enough for us to be happy without thinking about others. We should expand our concern for the happiness of all living beings. Wishing and working for others’ happiness is called “love.” Boundless love is the basic nature of all living beings. Without love everything becomes dry. Love makes everything rich, lush, and vital. It’s like a protein that makes a more nutritious life. Love without clinging naturally shines on every living being like sunlight. We become a friend to everyone, and our mind becomes very calm and peaceful, clear and gentle. This is something we can experience for ourselves. With love, we see everyone as special, beautiful, and lovely—outside and inside. We might not see this because of our limited preferences and vision, but everyone has unique beauty. We depend on others for everything we have—their cooperation and support makes everything possible for us. We’re here for all living beings and we have a responsibility to love everyone. So we should bring on the love, opening and radiating it in our hearts as much as we can.
The second cause of happiness is compassion, which is the outreaching expression of our love. Compassion is the wish and activity to help relieve the suffering of others. When someone we love is in trouble, we naturally feel compassion and want to help. Every living being experiences difficulties, suffering, and sorrow. No one is above that. Genuine compassion connects to others in their current situation. We stand with them and share their experience, their thoughts, and their pains. We can offer our help according to our capabilities, and each time feel joy, appreciation, and happiness for however much we’re able to help, and sincerely wish to be able to help more in the future. If we have courage, commitment, and determination, gradually our capabilities will grow and our compassionate activities will increase. Rather than becoming bored and tired with others’ difficulties—including our own—take them as opportunities to increase our courage, confidence, joy, and our love, compassion, and wisdom.
The third cause of happiness is rejoicing. Rejoicing in others’ happiness is very special because it reaffirms and strengthens our own love and compassion. When we love someone and they experience some degree of happiness and peace, or they’re relieved of suffering and difficulties, it’s always a cause to rejoice. How wonderful it is! How special it is! May their joy, peace, and achievement last forever! Rather than feeling jealous or competitive with their success, let’s celebrate their happiness and wish that it becomes even greater! This is boundless joy.
Along with boundless love, boundless compassion, and boundless joy, the fourth cause of happiness is boundless equanimity, or balance. With balance we become more flexible and strong so that we can grow and develop without allowing anything to become too rigid and extreme. We become imbalanced when we hold on to things too tightly. Deep down, our nature is open and fluid, dynamic, creative, and inclusive. With boundless equanimity, we bring balance to our activities and our minds, and we’re more fully expressive of our goodness nature.
Where do these boundless qualities of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity come from? We all know that these don’t come from outside. They come from our own hearts and minds. They’re an infinite treasure that we already have—we just have to open and reveal them. This is the nature of the mind. When we’re in touch with our love, it means we’re in touch with the essence of our mind and hearts. Whatever we do, it’s so important to be in touch with our hearts and minds. Essentially this means that we relax into the nature of our minds, and share our natural, beautiful qualities with others. This will bring lasting happiness for everyone.
This interview with Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche was conducted by Pema Dragpa and Amanda Lewis at Padma Samye Ling on April 12, 2014.
Nowadays, everyone seems so busy and over-loaded, and there are so many distractions. Why do
you think this is happening?
If we look at history, we can see that samsara is always really busy. I don’t think there’s such a big difference now. In recent times, however, because of technology and modern conveniences, we can communicate with others more freely and easily. Even when you’re sitting in your room, you can see and talk to other people around the world. In this way, it’s definitely more active and busy nowadays. There’s also a lot more abundance, luxury, and richness opportunities, and in order to do all those things everyone has to work a lot. Everyone wants to fulfill the American Dream, the European Dream, or the Asian Dream; they’d really like to achieve the very best of everything, and they look around at each other thinking, “How can I get the best?”
What is the best response we can have to being too busy? What is the worst response?
When we become so busy with all these modern conveniences, of course the mind also becomes busier. We have so much different information coming at us from every direction. The mind really can become overwhelmed with so much information—the brain office is very active! This is all in addition to the general functioning busyness that we all have in daily life. All these things combined together can be very stressful. It can also affect the different systems of our physical and mental health and our family and friendships, because it’s just too much—we’re overloaded. When this happens, we need to apply the teachings, which always say to maintain balance. Balance is really important. Instead of craving and looking for something more all the time, enjoy what you already have, what you’re surrounded by, and feel the joy of that. This will definitely bring more balance and give you a little more free time.
If we only have 10 or 15 minutes for formal practice everyday, what should we practice?
If you only have a little time for practice, the teachings always say to bring more joy and appreciation to your situation and circumstances. Being able to practice and having an abundance of supportive conditions is not a coincidence. So feel more joy and appreciation, and activate your devotion to the buddhas, bodhisattvas, and enlightened beings that you’re connected to, honoring their words of wisdom and compassion. We’re igniting these good qualities within ourselves. Devotion isn’t a favor we’re doing for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or anyone else; devotion brings out and glorifies the richness qualities of ourselves because it intensifies our love, our compassion, and our wisdom. Remember the skills, methods, and knowledge that you’ve learned, and feel grateful for that.
Together with that, bring up more bodhichitta thoughts for all sentient beings, wishing them every good thing, and chant the four boundless prayers of boundless love, boundless compassion, boundless joy, and boundless equanimity. Feel the strong presence of Buddha Shakyamuni, Guru Padmasambhava, and all the enlightened beings.
If you have time for a little more formal practice, you can also chant a few lines. Chanting is a reminder of our meditation and practice. It isn’t something separate— chanting is directly connected to what we’re practicing. It restrengthens and reactivates our meditation; like pushing a button—if we’d like to light up our house, even if there’s already electricity, we still have to push the “on” button. Chanting is like pushing a button to turn on our inherent nature. It sizzles our natural qualities, and at the same time, brings more abundance. So if you can, do a little chanting, even if it’s just for a short time.
Then meditate silently, freeing all the busy conceptual thoughts of this and that, all the thoughts of the day’s activities, and all past, present, and future thoughts. Give yourself a break, a little spare time. Just relax in a calm, peaceful state as long as you can—even if it’s just a short time. Then conclude by wishing the best to everyone. That’s one way you can do a complete practice in 10 or 15 minutes.
What’s the main thing we have to give up if we really want to turn our mind towards the Dharma?
The teachings always say that we should try to give up attachment. It doesn’t mean that we have to give up everything, but try to give up grasping and clinging to everything so much. If we can do that, the teachings say that everything will become practice. So with mindfulness, give up as much attachment as we can.
If we want to practice the Dharma for our entire life – and not just start strong and fizzle out – what are the main things we need to make this happen?
Starting out strong with Dharma practice and then losing momentum happened to practitioners in ancient times as well as now. As the great master H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche said, if we’d like to keep our practice strong for our entire lives, we should practice what are known as the “Four Wealths of a Dharma Practitioner.” (1) First, we should always have strong devotion to the lineage and the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. (2) Second is a very strong understanding of purity, or some degree of pure perception. (3) Third, we should feel love and compassion for all beings and help them as much as we can. (4) Fourth, we should understand that everything in samsara is impermanent—it’s changing all the time, and having a life with the 18 endowments is very precious. If we keep these four wealths close to our hearts—devotion, pure perception, bodhichitta, and appreciation of our life and situation—we’ll continue to keep our practice as strong as when we started. They will be a fuel that always re-energizes, reactivates, and restrengthens our motivation. Not only that, but they’ll make our motivation deeper and stronger, and will bring more joy, appreciation, bodhichitta, and a greater feeling of preciousness.
In addition to the Four Wealths, we should remember the “Four Mind Turnings.” These are very similar to what H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche and many other great masters have said: (1) precious human life, (2) impermanence, (3) samsara has a lot of difficulties and troubles, and (4) causes and their results are inevitable. If we can keep up the Four Wealths and Four Mind Turnings, we are definitely on track, and will continue on the beautiful path of enlightenment and compassion, giving a beautiful reward to ourselves and sharing a lot of good things with others.
What are the main points to remember to practice Dzogchen in daily life?
A practical way we can practice Dzogchen in daily life is in two ways: (1) during meditation and (2) in post-meditation. In meditation, just relax and follow the Dzogchen instructions you’ve received exactly. At the beginning of your meditation practice, bring up more joy, appreciation, devotion, and bodhichitta thoughts for all sentient beings, then meditate in the Dzogchen state. Then with very heartfelt joy and appreciation, dedicate the merit wishing the best for everyone and for their enlightenment.
In post-meditation, try to see everything as a display of rigpa, or like a dream, a mirage, or a magic show—see everything like that, including yourself. Think that we are in a dream world, and at the same time, release all of your thoughts within their own natural state of rigpa. The teachings always say to keep up that realization with mindfulness, alert- ness, and thoughtfulness. If you have those three—particularly thoughtfulness, or bagyö in Tibetan—it’s almost as though the Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, or a great teacher is always with you. Thoughtfulness, along with mindfulness and alertness, are a great teacher that will help you all the time. To maintain your Dzogchen practice all the time, both in meditation and postmeditation, always try to have thoughtfulness and mindfulness.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only one Dharma book, what would it be?
Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva.
What would you recommend for your students on a deserted island?
I would recommend the same book, The Way of the Bodhisattva, or The Words of My Perfect Teacher.
How can we use a very demanding work environment as practice?
See all the difficulties as a reminder of your courage, commitment, and openness. Open- ness means, when it comes, let it come and let it go. Apply the Dzogchen techniques. Keep all of your vents open so it doesn’t become too congested. Just do your best. If you can’t do everything, be happy with whatever you can do. You know your own mind—if you’re doing the best you can do, feel joy, and then keep an open mind. Keep the ventilation open.
What should we do if our family and friends don’t support our Dharma practice?
It’s true, that can happen—both in the past in Buddhist countries, as well as now in the West. I don’t think we should try to seek acknowledgement from our family or friends. As long as our Dharma practice is not a big disturbance to them, we should definitely keep up our courage and commitment with an open mind. We can also dedicate our merit to them, wishing them all the best. We aren’t hurting anyone physically, mentally, or emotionally by practicing the Dharma. Our family may disagree a little bit—maybe it has something to do with their tradition or way of thinking, but in reality, we’re not hurting anyone in any way. So just do your best and try to help, but don’t wait for their acknowledgement or expect that they will do something. If they do support you, that’s great. Maybe their principles are slightly different from our principles, but our Dharma practice will never hurt anyone at all, not now or in the future.
How can we use raising children as a Dharma practice?
Parents can show or teach the Dharma to their children slowly by example. If their children are ready, excited, and they’d like to learn, then definitely they can show all the Dharma according to their child’s capabilities and readiness. But the most important thing is to be a good example of love, kind- ness, and compassion, full of respect and appreciation for one another. Parents should be kind and nice to each other, and they can show their children how to live with courage, confidence, and commitment. It’s also important that parents don’t fall into unhealthy habitual patterns or activities. Demonstrating these qualities is one’s own practice too. If they can show this and really be that, I think it will be a very good lesson or teaching for their children.
The Buddha and many great masters often said that no matter which Dharma teachers you’re going to have, parents are actually the first teachers you have in the world. They show you traditions, the systems of the world, and all sorts of good things. Being a good example for your children is very special and it will really go deep down into their hearts and minds. Even if they don’t show it immediately or respond at the time, when your children grow up, I think they will remember that.
We’d like to ask for specific practice advice to help with a few common emotional challenges. First, if we feel overwhelmed and burnt out, what is the best practice to do?
Feeling the presence of Guru Padmasambhava, Tara, and the Buddha and practicing on them is definitely excellent. You can also free all those overwhelmed attitudes and thoughts with a deep exhalation and feel them instantly release into space. I think doing that a few times followed by Dzogchen meditation will really help.
If your work is something connected with the Dharma or benefitting beings, you have very excellent principles. So even if it’s over- whelming at times, it’s just really so beautiful and special. It has beautiful consequences, and not just now—the beneficial effects will continually ripple out to all sentient beings for many years to come and throughout time. Remember that you’re doing good bodhisattva activities and the benefits will continue long into the future.
When we read the life stories of the Buddha and great bodhisattvas, they did so many beneficial activities and endeavored with such courage, commitment, and willingness, even when they were surrounded by challenges in every direction. They continued doing their best, even if they weren’t acknowledged or people didn’t approve. They kept their principles and their view, and didn’t shake for a moment. Think about these stories and keep them as examples of how to continually move forward and 4 fulfill all of your good, beautiful goals and wishes, and then do your best. Even if no one acknowledges you, you should feel happy. If you’re doing something good, with principles of love and compassion, be happy and joyful, and offer that to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and dedicate the merit to all sentient beings. Join your activity together with the activities of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, Chenrezig, Manjushri, Vajrapani, and Guru Padmasambhava like waves joining together. Connect your attitude and thoughts with theirs, and let it swing through the whole universe of the six realms. Really wish that sincerely and think, “I’m doing good in the eyes of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.”
If we feel depressed or hopeless, what is the best practice to do?
Depression can be very difficult to deal with, and we should do everything we can to really try to lift ourselves up. We are human beings, which is so special. And not only are we human beings, but we have intelligence and all our senses are alert and intact. We can really feel joyful and happy about that. Feeling de- pressed means we’re dragging our mind down; we push ourselves into a corner and cover ourselves up with so many habitual patterns and conceptions, and it becomes darker and darker. Why do we have to do that? Even if some degree of difficulty or trouble comes, we have to lighten ourselves up with joy, appreciation, and goodness. There are always troubles in life—no one is an exception. From the president all the way to the big city streets, everyone has troubles. The president has president troubles, senators have senator troubles, governors have governor troubles, business people have business troubles, street people have street troubles. Everyone has their different level of troubles. Who doesn’t experience any troubles? Really think about this: “Who doesn’t have any troubles? I have troubles just like everyone, so why should I feel this way? Why keep hitting myself on the head? I’m a good person. This is going to pass.” This is just a cloud in the sky; it will pass. Thunderstorms don’t last for 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Everything changes. Think of how things have changed in the past, and of all the ways that you’re fortunate now. Look ahead to the future and move forward.
If we feel anxious and out of control, what is the best practice to do?
I think it’s good to meditate. Come to Padma Samye Ling and do retreat! Relax—look to the sky, the birds singing, the wind and the grass. The deer are moving so slowly and beautifully, the hummingbirds are flying— why do we have to be so anxious? Really, come out of the nest of your house or apartment, and come to the retreat land to relax and meditate for a little while. If you can’t, then just do a short meditation wherever you are. Apply the same techniques that I mentioned earlier: feel joy, lift yourself up and think, “Why am I so worried? I’m spoiling myself, I’m punishing myself—why should I keep doing this to myself?” Really, you have every freedom and right to do good things. You don’t have to keep banging against yourself, overloaded with worries all the time. Of course we have some worries, but worries come and worries go. Happiness comes and happiness goes. Let your mind stay in a free and open state.
If we feel insignificant or alone, what is the best practice to do?
We should bring up more joy and appreciation. Why do we have to feel lonely? We’re not alone—we’re joined by all sentient beings. We all have so many friends everywhere. Even if we’re alone sometimes, that’s fine. Many times it’s like that. We came into this world alone, and we’ll leave this world alone. We are like great lions that travel alone. But lions aren’t burdened by all these emotions, hoping for this and that. You have to uplift yourself. Think, “I have every good quality. I’m going to be happy, stay relaxed, and increase my capabilities.” Even you if don’t succeed in this or that way, that happens all the time. Don’t put your hand in front of your face and only look at your palm. Look to the horizon and out to the world. Many people are having various successes, and others are having difficulties. But if we have courage and commitment, with a big vision and perspective, we can definitely fulfill our goals according to what our situation allows. And for that we should be happy.
I think the key point is that it’s the responsibility of human beings to be happy. Whether you have billions of dollars or not a lot of money, everybody’s goal is to be happy. So try to be happy. According to the Buddha’s teaching, everyone has the capability to be happy because everyone has buddha-nature. Everyone. No one is an exception. Since we all have buddha-nature, we also have every opportunity to activate it and allow it to shine and reflect out beautifully—not clashing and mixing it with our ego and a lot of excitement and attachment, wishing things were different. Our buddha-nature is always ready. Let it shine gently with joyful effort, courage, and commitment.
Many things in the fast-paced modern world are being streamlined and condensed into essential 5 points, including the Dharma. What are the main things we need to be careful not to lose in the Dharma lineage so that it remains fully intact?
In order to uphold the essential core of the Dharma we have to summarize all the teachings. In the Nyingma school they are summarized into nine yanas, or levels, which can then be further condensed into the three principle vehicles of Basic Buddhism, Sutra Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The essence of these three yanas is known as the Three Trainings of conduct, concentration, and wisdom. So try to keep up the essential practices of the Three Trainings with good conduct, bodhichitta, and the Vajrayana meditation practices of the Creation and Completion Stages.
Externally we should try to maintain the Three Vows of conduct of Basic Buddhism, Sutra Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The con- duct of Basic Buddhism is really trying to avoid all negative actions, directly or indirectly to self and others. Every great master said that this is the essential meaning of the Buddha’s foundational teachings, or the Hinayana. In addition to that, Mahayana con- duct is performing all the beneficial activities for oneself and all beings, both directly and indirectly. Then in addition to the conduct of Basic Buddhism and Mahayana as the foundation, bring more purity understanding of the true nature of every phenomena, both subject and object, which is often called the Three Vajras of pure form, pure sound, and pure space, or pure body, speech, and mind. If your conduct follows the Three Vows, and your mind is always with the Three Vajras in Dzogchen meditation, filled with joy and appreciation, loving-kindness and compassion, this will keep the essence of the lineage teachings even if you haven’t received all the different empowerments and instructions.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of people using computers and smartphones all the time?
Without those technologies, it’s more difficult to communicate—you have to make a big effort to contact and see others. But with them, you can communicate with others so easily, and fulfill a lot of good things. But you can also get involved in many unnecessary and unhealthy things as well. All kinds of instant messages appear unexpectedly from many different places.
It’s also true that when many people are with their friends or family members—particularly young people—almost everyone is looking at their smartphones, their fingers are very busy, and they’re almost ignoring the people they’re with. In the long term, I don’t think this is very good. We’ll become strangers to one another even when we’re in the same room or sitting at the same table. If we’re always trying to create relationships somewhere else, we’ll lose the presence of human contact with whoever is right in front of us —the love, kindness, and compassion, and the laughing, joking, and sharing with our family and friends. We’re really losing that, which means that the ground we’re standing on is almost spoiled. Maybe in the moment we’re gaining a little bit externally—something far away through technology—but I think deep down in the long term, it won’t be good.
How often should we try to do personal or group retreat?
Group retreat and practice is very important because you get the sangha together. As we all know, in Buddhism there are the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, which are the three precious ones. In a way, one person can be considered sangha, but really sangha means community. The teachings always say that four people is the minimum to make a sangha. If sangha comes together with the same beautiful intentions and meditation practice, it makes a strong bond and energy to support one another in defeating our habitual patterns and negativities. For example, if you only have one stick it might be somewhat strong, but if you bundle many sticks together they become much stronger than when they’re alone. Therefore the teachings always say that it’s very special to get together. It makes a lot of good reverberations and energy to support one another, and for other beings as well. Of course in both modern and ancient times, there are difficulties or different family situations, and we aren’t always able to practice with other sangha members. If that’s the case, do your practice at home for however long you can.
In general, going to a hermitage to practice will make you more quiet and peaceful, because for a little while you’re giving up your homeland. The Buddha and all the great lineage masters often said that if you’re able to give up your homeland, you’ve already accomplished half the practice of Dharma. When you’re sitting at home, so many memories and habitual patterns come up, so even if you really want to practice, the mind won’t settle because it keeps moving to those different points. That’s why those great masters always said, “Give up your home and go to the mountains in the company of deer and birds.” You accomplish a big practice just by doing that. Many times in Buddha’s teachings it says that even thinking of going to a hermitage for retreat—even if you couldn’t get there, but just thinking of that and making 6 preparations to go—will purify a lot of obscurations.
In Tibetan, hermitage is wenpa, which means “free from busy discursive activities connected with habitual patterns.” There are three hermitages: body hermitage, speech hermitage, and mind hermitage. Leaving your home to do retreat means you already have the body hermitage—you already freed that package of physical habitual patterns. The second hermitage of speech is to be quiet or silent, calm and peaceful, which means you are freed from all the habitual patterns of mundane chit-chat. The most important is mind hermitage, which is freeing all the habits of negative emotions, thoughts, and conceptions. Try to let those go and just stay in the present. With these three hermitages we’ll have more opportunities to experience the result of our practice more easily than if we stay in our usual surroundings.
Recently more teachers have been making certain empowerments and transmissions publically available over the internet, such as H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Karmapa. What do you think about this?
I really can’t tell. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche always said that transmissions and empowerments should not be done through electronic technology. It’s something that is very personal between a teacher and student, and their personal connection and contact is very important. You go through many things to meet a teacher in person, contacting them with strong devotion. There is a strong bond between teacher and student. According to the Buddhadharma, it’s not just a one-time relationship, or a one-time show. They’re always connected. In Tibet, it’s said that a teacher and student accompany one another like the oil, wick, and fire of a butter lamp. They stay together until the end. The teacher-student relationship is not just for one or two lives. In Buddhism we believe in so many lifetimes. This relationship lasts until they reach enlightenment and become buddhas.
Over the years, a few students have asked for empowerments and transmissions over the internet or telephone, but Khenchen Rinpoche always said that we could not do that. However, great teachers like H.H. Dalai Lama and H.H. Karmapa are definitely in a different category. According to Tibetan beliefs, they are both great, enlightened beings. Mostly it’s good to follow the lineage instructions and stay more simple and humble, following a very systematic and gradual way. That is what so many great masters have taught.
When Guru Padmasambhava gave empowerments to his 25 disciples or 9 heart students, he didn’t say, “You don’t have to come to me. I will give you the empowerment by transmitting it through the air.” I’m sure Guru Padmasambhava could have done that, but he didn’t. And the Buddha also didn’t say, “Stay home or wherever you are and I will give you the empowerment, transmission, and teaching. You don’t have to show up in person.” The Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava didn’t do that. There are also so many examples of great masters in ancient times that made such a big effort to contact their teachers. Both the teacher and the student made a big joyful effort to make this connection. For these reasons, I am going to stay like the old 500 BCE style of the Buddha and the 8th century style of Guru Padmasambhava.
What do you think about how widely spread and easily available the Dharma is now on the internet, television, and in publications, including material that was traditionally restricted?
That’s definitely happening now. One time H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche said, “Of course the secret Vajrayana teachings are secret. However, for those fortunate ones who are interested and come to receive the teaching, sometimes making a big effort, it’s okay to share it with them. If people don’t really have devotion and interest, even if you ask them to come they won’t. It’s also the degenerate age, and sharing the teachings is more important at this time than keeping them secret.” For these reasons given by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, who gave a lot of secret Vajrayana teachings and empowerments to people who made the effort to receive them, I think it’s good to share these teachings now.
In one way it’s great that modern technology can protect the Dharma by helping it remain for a long time with more translations and publications. Yet in another way, if so many secret teachings are available on the internet, there’s a danger that they will be seen as just another regular thing like everything else. The internet has everything—all of samsara is there! But maybe it’s good that the beautiful Dharma is also available among all of samsara. I can’t really make too much commentary about this. It has good benefits, and I guess the Dharma should be with samsara where it can help beings.
In the modern scientific world, sometimes people think that praying to deities and buddhas is childish—like we are asking for some other powerful being to come and take care of our problems for us. What is your response to this?
I think it’s a matter of perspective. Scientists are very smart. They look for evidence for everything, which is very good. Yet they always think that something has to be proven tangibly right in front of them by using their technology—otherwise they won’t accept it.
Praying is very popular for religious groups around the world—and not just now—this has been going on for centuries and centuries. Praying has a long-lasting history and people commonly believe that it’s beneficial, both in ancient times, as well as now. According to Buddhism, we shouldn’t consider anything beneficial to be insignificant because it’s helping beings, regardless of what level the help is coming from or whether we can see it or not. It’s helping and benefitting others, and that’s what we want. No matter what style, philosophy, or school you believe in, I think it’s wise to accept something that helps someone. I’m not saying that people should just accept prayer. But if something is benefitting others, it’s good.
In Buddhism, we’re not praying to the Buddha to come take care of our problems for us. That’s not a Buddhist view. We’re only asking the Buddha to help support us to become buddhas ourselves. We’re not putting it in someone else’s hands, asking him or her to do it for us. We’re asking enlightened beings to help us become self-sufficient and well-equipped to take care of things ourselves. We do this by developing our reasoning and with meditation and prayer. We all have the same potential—buddha-nature—and we’re working to reveal and fully actualize our nature. If we count percentages, we’re doing about 80% of the work, and the buddhas’ help is about 20% of the supportive conditions to make this happen.
As Dharma practitioners, what are some of the best ways we can help protect the natural environment, which many people believe is one of the main problems humanity has to address?
The environment is facing many big, difficult, and dangerous problems now. We’re using the environment a lot without thinking about the consequences. Many times Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche said that it seemed like there have been more natural disasters in the past 15 to 20 years. He thought that this might be happening because we’re disturbing the earth so much, and using all of its resources. I think this must be true. As a result, nature has become unbalanced, and natural disasters keep coming one after another.
Particularly in the Nyingma school, Guru Padmasambhava’s teachings are very careful about protecting the environment. The great tertons have always been concerned about the environment and what’s going to happen to Tibet. They always do a lot of ceremonies and prayers to protect the environment. If you read the life stories of all the great tertons, almost everyone did that. That is because of Guru Padmasambhava. Even when tertons would reveal termas, they always put something back so that the earth energy was not lost. Even if the terma was only a small object or vase, they wouldn’t like to just take the terma out, leaving an empty space. They always put something back according to the instructions of Guru Padmasambhava.
These days we’re continually drilling and mining for oil, gold, and other things. Ac- cording to the teachings of Guru Padmasambhava and the great Nyingma masters and teachers, we’re definitely making a big disturbance to the environment.
Of course it’s an enormous job to solve these environmental problems. But we should do whatever we can to protect and support the environment according to our best capabilities. The problem is so big and involves so much that it’s beyond any one person or one group. It’s too big. We have to work together. But individually we can act according to our capacities as we, “Think globally and act locally.” I think we should really follow that. And then we should pray, which will also help, even if scientists don’t think it’s correct. We’re adding our good thoughts and intentions towards that. Activating good intentions and thoughts changes the mind, which will be reflected in our activities. Therefore we should pray and act with our best capabilities, thinking globally and acting locally.
In Tibet, on many occasions women were not encouraged or even allowed to receive teachings and study the Dharma. Have you noticed any beneficial changes that have happened by more actively including women’s perspectives and participation in the study and practice of the Dharma in modern society?
In Tibet, I think this has to do with cultural tradition. Every country has a lot of traditions. In most ancient traditions, women were considered almost secondary, even if they were playing an equal role to help everything progress. This happened in many countries, and in Tibet to some degree as well. Yet women have definitely always helped equally, if not even more, standing at the front.
When it comes to the Buddha’s actual teaching, I don’t think there is any difference between men and women, especially according to the Vajrayana. I don’t remember reading or hearing about anything that women can’t do. They can equally receive all the teachings and practices, including all the secret teachings. According to the Dharma, I’ve never heard that women are not allowed to receive those teachings. There are also many great female practitioners who reached the highest realization and became renowned teachers with many male and female students, including many high lamas. So on the Dharma level, I don’t think there is any difference. On the traditional level, there was some, but I think that is going away now.
I think that women are generally more active and quick than men. That’s why I always thought that in the Vajrayana teachings, among the Three Roots, the root of activity is always the dakini. Khenchen Rinpoche also always said that women are more active, and that men are usually a little slower and take longer, and that they maybe have to think more. But women come to the front and play a more active role. Also, many times when we gave teachings, we noticed that women were more spiritually oriented than men. In Tibet, I don’t really remember if it was this way, but in the West, including places like Europe, more women are practicing than men.
What do you think is a healthy balance between Buddhist practice and social and political activism? Do we have certain responsibilities as engaged Buddhist citizens?
According to Buddhism, practicing the Dharma is the most important thing. The Dharma is not about just trying to improve oneself. The Dharma is really working for other beings. A bodhisattva is like a social worker, free from all expectations—a pure social worker. Practicing the Buddhadharma is about benefitting and helping others. That is the intention, that is what we do, and the destination and goal is only to benefit other beings. Therefore, when we’re practicing, we’re not completely isolated and not doing anything for other beings. We’re definitely helping others, maybe even more than ever.
Along with practicing the Dharma, it’s good to support and help others by participating in the world and politics in whatever ways you can—as long as it’s without violence and without becoming too emotional. Then I think it’s good. If you don’t yet have the capacity to change something without having strong emotions, but there is a very big, meaningful reason, then maybe it’s okay.
But if there’s not a big benefit, and you just become emotionally involved, it may be more damaging to our social worker bodhichitta for enlightenment. Then instead of benefitting anything, you create so many headaches, stress, and anxiety for yourself, so that even if you began with a good intention, it ends up being something different, which is impractical.
What is your response to someone who is very pessimistic?
I don’t think you can change much if you only see the negative side of things. Many things can’t be changed immediately. There- fore recharge your Dharma battery, and pray. Pray and practice and relax. Make yourself strong so that maybe later you can help. In the meantime, try to save your energy. If you only see the negative side of everything, you have no choice—even if you try to do something, you won’t go very far. You have to be practical and recharge yourself until you’re in a good state again.
Many people think that religion is outdated—in the past and even now, it has been the cause of so much oppression, war, and suffering. What can we do so that religion brings people together rather than pushing them apart?
What is H.H. Dalai Lama always teaching and encouraging? Compassion. What is religion in general? Religion is not a title. According to Buddhism, religion is fundamentally the basic goodness of all beings. It’s love, kindness, compassion, and consideration. It’s openness, respect, and appreciation. It’s sharing, supporting, and helping each other, being accepting and understanding of one another. That is religion. Religion is the basic nature of everyone. It’s not something from the outside that we try to apply with force. It’s our own goodness. So I definitely don’t think that religion is outdated. It could be that we’re 9 outdating our own goodness, and that’s why we’re getting so many consequences we don’t want. When we really look at the Buddhadharma, what is true religion? What is the Dharma? The Dharma is nonviolence, truth, appreciation, respect, and kindness. That’s it.
Of course in ancient times as well as now, wars have been fought in the name of religion. This also happened in Buddhism, but that is not the Dharma. No one calls that Dharma. That is emotion—regular samsara stuff. Even if someone uses the name “Dharma,” that’s not really Dharma. As H.H. Dalai Lama says, we should have respect, appreciation, and compassion for one another.
Compassion is not outdated. Loving-kind- ness is not outdated. They’re not outdated according to any standard—not since the beginning of time, and I don’t think they’ll become outdated in the future. Love and compassion are the sole cause of peace and harmony. I’m not talking about religious titles or names—true religion shines from the heart. True heart religion is about exploring our inner goodness and sharing it with others. Then peace comes. Peace is religion, peace is spiritual. If we want to call it something, we can say that religion is goodness.
Contemporary Western culture tends to be very individualistic and independent. How can this support or harm our Dharma practice?
In general I think this is the same everywhere, but maybe Westerners believe in independence slightly more, which is really wonderful. In general it’s good to have determination and be your own person. But holding onto our opinions too strongly can cause families and couples to have difficulties. We have to be willing to compromise with respect and appreciation, and continue practicing Dharma with courage, commitment, and determination. But at the same time, we have to respect and appreciate other peoples’ opinions, advice, and thoughts—see how they work and con- sider how they might help. It’s not that we have to immediately agree to their opinion and apply it, but we should really look at it and think about it.
Was it easier to achieve realization in the past?
The time of the Buddha was known as the “period of result,” when people achieved a lot of realization, followed by a “period of mostly studying,” and then a “period of degeneration” when people don’t practice or study as much. During the Buddha’s time, it was easier because the Buddha was such a great teacher, and his students were also highly ready to receive and practice those teachings. As a result, they immediately became arhats, or achieved big realization. In those cases, it was faster to get realization in ancient times. Yet the Vajrayana teachings always say that as the degeneration age worsens, the power of the Vajrayana teachings will intensify. Therefore I don’t really see a big difference between then and now.
Maybe what has always been lacking is when practitioners have a shortage of devotion and compassion, joyful effort, courage, and commitment. That definitely slows down anyone’s achievement. That happened in the past, it’s happening now, and I’m sure it will happen in the future.
What’s the best thing we can do for the Dharma? What’s the worst thing we can do for the Dharma?
Practicing the Dharma is the best, and not practicing is the worst.
Do you have any final comments about integrating the Dharma with daily life?
(1) Have devotion to the lineage, (2) pure perception and affection for Vajrayana brothers and sisters and for everyone, (3) bodhichitta for all living beings, and (4) see everything as a magical, dream-like, impermanent display. With this attitude, maintain mindfulness, alertness, and thoughtfulness as much as you can. Many teachings say that mindfulness and alertness are contained within thoughtfulness. So always be thoughtful about the activities of your body, speech, and mind, both when you’re by yourself and with others. Always do your best as much as possible. And at the end of every day dedicate your merit by reflecting back on the day, and make an offering of all your good activities to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, Guru Padamsambhava, and all the gurus, devas, and dakinis. By their blessings and your merit, wish for all sentient beings to be happy and joyful, and that everyone wakes up to the original qualities of their buddha-nature.
By: Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Padma Gochen Ling, Tennessee June 10, 2005
These, monks, are the seven treasures.
The treasure of conviction,
the treasure of virtue,
the treasure of conscience, and concern,
the treasure of listening, generosity,
and discernment as the seventh treasure.
Whoever, man or woman, has these treasures
is said not to be poor, has not lived in vain.
So conviction and virtue, confidence and Dhamma-vision
should be cultivated by the wise,
remembering the Buddha’s instruction.
Dhana Sutta: Treasure
This is teaching on the Seven Wealths. In Tibetan it is called phagpa nordun. Phagpa is noble and nor is wealth. These are also known as the “Seven Treasures of Noble Ones.” This term nor is also a colloquial name which translates in the vernacular as “yaks.” There is a story about the renowned first Khyentse Rinpoche. When he was young, he used to go on many pilgrimages, travelling alone throughout Tibet, carrying his own luggage. In particular he visited the central part of the country where there are many sacred places and historical locations associated with Guru Padmasambhava, the great master Shantarakshita, Vimalamitra, and many others. The Dharma was originally introduced to the country from this area. So Khyentse Rinpoche arrived in the central region and stayed at a famous monastery of the Drikung Kagyu school. It was in a place called Drikung where this sub-sect of the Kagyu tradition originated. In the rocky mountains around the monastery there is a hoofprint which resembles that of a female yak. Khyentse inquired of the monk caretaker, “Whose footprint is that?” The man explained that this was a very precious sign, a footprint of one of the Seven Noble Yaks (nor). Not understanding the Tibetan phrase for the Seven Treasures, he assumed it had something to do with yaks. Khyentse later said that the monk was very courageous and had no hesitation in his answer, but that he had not studied very much. So that is a story to introduce tonight’s topic, the Seven Treasures of the Noble Ones.
First we will list all seven names and then we will go over the meanings.
1. SRADDHA: (dad pa) devotion, faith, confidence, trust
2. SILA: (tsul khrims) morality or ethics
3. DANA: (phyinpa) generosity
4. DHARMA: (cho) study, contemplation
5. HRIH: (ngo tsha shes pa) self-respect, dignity, shame, decorum
6. APATRAPYA: (khrel yod pa) respect for others, propriety,
7. PRAJNA: (shes rab) discriminating wisdom
The first one is devotion. This is followed by morality. The third is generosity. The fourth is study and contemplation—to receive a teaching and practice it. The fifth is self-respect. The sixth is respect for others. Seventh is wisdom. Whoever has these seven qualities has discovered the Treasury of the Noble Ones and is a very rich person. If they have more than this, being considerably deep and strong in these practices, they are multi-millionaires. If they have immeasurable qualities such as these, they are incredibly wealthy, spiritual billionaires. That is basically what the Buddha actually said.
As you all know, devotion is very important. It is a combination of joy and interest, and includes the motivation to bring good things into your life, as well as the lives of others. Without devotion and good motivation, nothing will improve. The degree and strength to which we develop devotion can be divided into three levels. Initially, there is interest, which is followed by desirable, and then infallible devotion.
The first is interested devotion. When you have heard or see something special and are moved toward it, you feel something nice, clear, attractive, and uplifting. You may even think, “How beautiful!” When you have that clear thought and inspired attitude in relation to spiritual virtues, this is known as “interest.”
The second is desirable devotion. This happens when you are not just experiencing clarity around these ideas or awakening an initial interest, but when you are actually moved to involve yourself further. Knowing that it is beautiful, you want to deepen your experience and explore your mind with the Dharma. This is known as desiring devotion.
The third kind is known as “infallible devotion.” Having developed interest to the point of engagement, you deepen and strengthen it through practice to the point where you will not fall away. Knowing it is good and perfect, no matter what happens you have unconditional faith in the Dharma. This is known as infallible, indestructible, irreversible devotion.
Devotion is so important. Without it, we cannot improve and grow. Buddha said, “Devotion is the opening that brings the light, the door to enlightenment.” If we don’t have devotion, we are closed up and shut off. There is no ventilation and no window to allow the light to shine. But with devotion, the window is open, you let in the light, and allow yourself to grow. Therefore, devotion is of primary importance. It is a combination of joy, confidence, and aspiration.
Whether you are a veteran practitioner or just starting doesn’t matter. Devotion is powerful and will bring you closer toward enlightenment. Even if you have studied many scriptures, and have developed intellectually so that you know all of the Buddha’s teachings, if you don’t have devotion you will not make any progress on the path. According to the Buddha’s teaching, the basis for study and learning has to be established in the heart with devotion. Then you can effectively bring on the enlightening power and spiritual qualities. Without devotion, practitioners never develop very far. On the other hand, even if you do not know very much about the Buddha’s teaching, if you comprehend a few of the basic and vital points and practice them diligently with devotion, you will realize the same result as those who may have studied and practiced for a long time. For these reasons, devotion is number one among the Seven Treasures of the Noble Ones.
In the Vajrayana tradition, it is said that accomplishment will happen quickly for two different types of practitioners. One is very learned and has good devotion, while the other is unlearned but has a very stable mind, and steady devotion. According to the Mantrayana teachings, these two individuals will have speedy realizations. Tonight we have all come here because we have devotion. We feel joy in relating to the Dharma. This is why we all come together, to discuss and practice the teachings. However, we need to continually restrengthen our devotion to magnify its beautiful qualities and not let it fade away. It is really important to renew and restrengthen our devotion on a regular basis. Whenever we practice we should energize this number one quality of the Noble Ones.
The second treasure is morality. Morality begins with unobscured observation, an alert mindfulness of the activities of the body, speech, and mind. Be mindful in a simple, and natural way. Morality doesn’t have anything to do with being forceful or punishing or trapping yourself. Rather it is a gentle, joyful attitude that observes the activities of body, speech, and mind whether we are in a group or alone.
In this way, we are easily able to follow the rules or guidelines of the country or village, and to respect the traditions of people wherever we happen to be. This is practicing the morality of existing or local customs.
Spiritually, there are many different ways to practice the morality of the Dharma, but basically, there are two ways to simplify the activities of the body, speech, and mind, and not hurt anyone. Harmlessness involves not causing injury to anyone and not endangering ourselves. That is basic morality. In the same context, try to be nice, calm, and peaceful. Be aware of your body language and your gestures in relation to others. In your own way, be a decent, simple, average citizen; all around nice guys and gals! You don’t have to be extraordinary and you don’t have to be completely shut down and say nothing like a piece of dirt. Be what you are and simply observe phenomena with joy, respect, and mindfulness. When you speak, do it nicely, be kind, polite, respectful, and honest. These are moral qualities in relation to speech.
As for the mind, be calm and peaceful, and emanate love, kindness, and compassion. Maintaining that attitude is known as the morality of the mind. Whoever has this morality, has real wealth. Even if we have devotion, without morality, things will never work out well. We begin with devotion, we add morality, and soon begin to shine and bring benefits to both our self and others. Therefore, morality is one of the treasures of practitioners.
The third treasure is generosity. Generosity means openness of mind. It is the opposite of greed and grasping. It is about sharing, and caring for others with an open state of mind. We must learn to care for others according to our readiness and personal capabilities. Whatever we can do and are currently doing must be done with joy and appreciation. Generosity can be applied on many different levels. There is the generosity of material wealth and belongings, offering others words of wisdom, as well as sharing your experience, knowledge, and skills. There is also the generosity of your power and abilities to protect others during difficult times; any refuge you can offer according to your capabilities. Whatever you do to benefit others, if you are not being greedy and holding back, activities done with that attitude of openness are known as “generosity practices.” Apply this on a material level according to your readiness. As Buddha said, even if you offer nothing more than a single mouthful of food to a human being or an animal, that is generosity. It does not have to be a big, gigantic thing. The most important part is opening our heart and not holding back, releasing our attachment to notions of loss and gain, and completely opening our self. With that attitude, do whatever you can. Even the smallest things offered in compassion with kind thoughts, such as a mouthful of food or perhaps just a single word that you know someone needs to hear. To help anyone in danger or comforting them during hard times, all of these are examples of the practice of generosity. Anything you do according to your resources and abilities, offered with an open heart and mind is known as generosity. This is a treasure of practitioners.
The fourth treasure concerns maturing the mind through study, and practicing the teaching of the Buddha. As we said earlier, the purpose of the teaching is to practice. It doesn’t matter how many teachings you have received, without the unfolding practice, it means we are not applying our resources or making right use of the treasure we already have. Having received teachings, we do not use them to examine and judge others, nor is the teaching just a lecture or format to express conceptual or abstract knowledge. The teachings we receive are to be applied individually, to oneself. It is not about looking outside or involvement with external relations. It is about going inward and observing your three gates of body, speech, and mind, and letting the view sink and settle and grow in one’s own heart. All of these teachings we have received should be spontaneously employed at the moment they are needed. For example, the teachings on lovingkindness should be used, particularly at those moments when we find we are getting angry. Instead of indulging the anger, we should generate more love and patience. That is a simple example of liberating the anger by applying the teaching.
Of course, there are many methods on how to handle anger including how to look into the source of anger itself. Instead of immediately grasping for outside answers and causes, we carefully look into where the anger is originating. This means not mechanically following anger or reacting emotionally, but to apply the appropriate antidote according to the teachings we have received. This practice will mature the mind and is known as “Dharma maturing the mind through the practice and teaching.” This is one of the Seven Wealths. If we don’t use Dharma when we need it, what’s the point? Of course, there may be some positive effects on your life, but overall there is no great benefit if you are not taking advantage of the teaching when you need it. You are not using the treasure when and where it would matter most.
Buddha offered many different examples to illustrate this. Once he said that if youreceive all the teachings, but don’t apply them when they are needed, it is very much like thebeggar who happens to know about the great treasures of a king. Even if he knows the wholeinventory—every item of gold, silver and diamond in the treasury—how does this knowledge benefit the beggar? Buddha also spoke of the man dying from thirst who dwells by a refreshing spring of pure water but does not drink any. What good is this cool spring of water if the dying man does not drink any? The Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, and a host of other great masters have given us many examples of this failure to integrate the teachings into action. When it comes to Dharma, if we don’t really apply and practice it with heart, when the time comes to apply it, to address arising conditions, we will have very little capacity to affect anything with mere conceptual knowledge. But if we try to apply the teachings consistently with mindfulness and devotion, with courage and commitment, the Dharma becomes one of the great treasures valued by all accomplished practitioners.
The fifth treasure is self-respect. This is as important in a group as it is when we are alone, in hermitage, or wherever we may be. Self-respect knows no boundaries insofar as it operates universally. It is not a quality that is invoked in one situation but not another. Its value is not limited to certain times and places. Self-respect will strengthen all our virtuous qualities. It is a combination of mindfulness, alertness, and contentment. Understanding the meaning of selfrespect, we do not hold negative views of ourselves, nor do we look down on others. Whether we are alone and by ourselves, or active in the greater world, we must conduct ourselves as practitioners, good persons, human beings with self-respect. We should never let ourselves do things which are not virtuous, or good according to any standards. Although at times we may try to relatively ignore ourselves, we must still have enough self-respect that we are not going to hurt ourselves, or do anything wrong or harmful by means of our body, speech, or mind.
Knowing that we are beautiful human beings, educated people, and Buddhist practitioners of the Mahayana, we must learn to respect ourselves and not be carried away by negative, habitual patterns. When we consider becoming involved with non-virtuous ways, we must learn to see this as shameful and resolve not to speak, think, or act in such ways. Selfrespect involves a vigilant upkeep of good qualities and is one of the treasures of practitioners. Taking care of our self, our health, and well-being, all of this is self-respect. In the Vajrayana teachings, it is said that the body is the mandala of the deities. So we should not ignore ourselves to the point of neglect. The extremes of asceticism and indulgence were both criticized by the Buddha. Since the body itself is the temple of the deities, self-respect has many different meanings. Do things which are good for yourself. Like all of the others, this is a treasure which does not come from outside; we already possess this resource, but it must be progressively revealed to make the qualities of our wealth shine.
The sixth treasure is respect for others. Others are very special and beautiful. The Buddha taught that we are here because of others; without them, we wouldn’t survive and nobody would be here. Therefore, there is every reason to respect them and to not harm them. This also involves the understanding that we will not do anything bad to ourselves in order to cause pain to others. In respecting others, we must be careful not to do anything dangerous or harmful to ourselves that might upset them. Therefore, this reinforces the admonition to refrain from non-virtue and practice respect for all other sentient beings.
Respect for both self and others is very important in the Buddha’s teaching. This respect is expressed through your body, speech, and mind, and should not be limited to human beings but observed in relation to animals as well. The Buddha told many stories about animals who suffered as a result of a lack of respect by people. This is a genuine Dharma quality, and a real treasure for practitioners.
The last treasure is wisdom. Wisdom contains many subdivisions, such as the wisdom attained through reading or study, wisdom which is the result of contemplating or analyzing, and wisdom which comes from the practice of meditation, the wisdom of relative truth, and the wisdom of absolute truth. There are many aspects of wisdom. Wisdom as the fruit of study begins with absorbing all the different forms of knowledge, such as the lessons you studied under a teacher in school or university. This is known as “wisdom which comes from studies.” There is also the study of the various yanas or levels of the Buddha’s teachings. This too is called “wisdom that comes about by means of study.”
The second type is the wisdom that comes from contemplation. After you gain wisdom from hearing or reading the teachings, in deep contemplation you are using your keen intellect to analyze things so that they make perfect sense to you. This is part of integrating and deepening what you have learned from a teacher or a book into your own intelligence and is known as the “wisdom of contemplation.”
The third wisdom goes beyond just reading and analyzing what you learned in school; you have to apply the knowledge to your own heart and mind. You need to transform yourself into Dharma, and turn your mind into wisdom. Your mind and the Dharma should not be two different things. You yourself must become one with wisdom. All of the Dharma teachings you have received from the outside are meant to nourish you to the point where you become one with those studies, and merge yourself with that wisdom state. This is known as the “wisdom of meditation.” Having studied and analyzed the teaching sufficiently, you’ve got it, and you become no different than that wisdom state. This is the realization gained from meditation practice. You can deepen this wisdom through the practice of Shamatha and Vipashyana meditation according to the general Buddhist teachings, and then specifically in the Vajrayana, this wisdom is matured through visualization and completion stage practices, or Dzogchen meditation. There are many techniques, but they are all about fully transforming yourself into that wisdom. This is the wisdom that “overpowers” the ego, and it comes from meditation. All of these forms of wisdom are excellent. If you only have the wisdom of study, that is good. If you also have the wisdom of contemplation, that is even better. If you have all three, that is the best wisdom possible, and an extremely beautiful treasure of practitioners.
This has been a brief teaching on the Seven Treasures. We all have these treasures within ourselves but we need to acknowledge their presence while trying to increase and strengthen them. That is the practice, so we thought it would be a good reminder to talk about the Seven Treasures this evening.
Transcribed on May 2, 2006 in the house at the southern foot of Turtle Hill by Padma Shugchang.
By: Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and
Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Turtle Hill, Tennessee November 10, 1996
According to the Abhidharma, the mind system can be conceptually divided in two: principal mind and mental events. The principal mind can be further divided into the eight consciousnesses, and there are fifty one different mental events. This evening, we would like to talk about the importance of devotion, confidence, and certainty.
Devotion, confidence, and certainty are all qualities of the mind, not external phenomena. They do not exist outside of the natural energies of the mind. Another way of considering this is to see that there are three basic possibilities: the positive mind, the negative mind, and the neutral mind. Devotion is a very powerful, positive force. In relation to spiritual life, devotion is an indispensable tool for growth and realization.
Devotion is also divided into three types. The first is called interest. This is when we are initially drawn to something that feels nice and seems to be good. The second is called longing, and the third, and most powerful type of devotion, is known as confidence. Of course, interest, longing, and confidence are all qualities of mind, but they usually manifest in sequence; first you develop interest, then longing or desire based on that interest, and ultimately confidence results by directly seeing the beneficial effects of devotion in your life.
Interest, longing, and confidence are often not united; they are commonly spread out into various realms of application so that they arise separately and at different times. We need to bring them together in the fire of devotion; in union they are very powerful. If we don’t fuse them in practice, our understanding and spiritual realization will be weak. In order to have real confidence, the other two qualities of interest and sincere desire, must have already come together through a shared objective. If interest and longing are still separate activities, they do not have the power of transformation. If you have a little interest in the teachings, but not much desire to apply the practices that would help change your life and purify negative emotions, devotion is obviously weak. Without all three elements in unison, you can work quite hard and realize very little. To grow spiritually, it is very important to keep these three merged into a single devotional intensity.
To explain further these three aspects of devotion:
Upon seeing the teacher and the qualities evidenced by spiritual practice, and by hearing the Dharma, you naturally become aware of how nice it feels. There is a calm, soothing vibration that is very special. Effortlessly, you feel attracted and drawn closer. This state is known as interest. You are moved in a direction that nobody forced or pushed you into. Simply contacting the presence of the Three Jewels through seeing their qualities and hearing the teachings brings a very peaceful feeling and an intimation of something beautiful. You might feel like you’re coming home.
The initial interest becomes intensified into strong motivation in this second step. In Tibetan gö-pa means “longing.” This is when you think, “I really should do this.” You feel you must finish the journey home, walk through the door, and step inside. You have a joyful feeling about getting inside. This leads to a strong practice and a meaningful response to the teaching. Having opened yourself, you become intimate with the Dharma, continually deepening and maturing in your understanding.
This comes from practical acquaintance with the Dharma, like the familiarity experienced when you arrive home. You feel very relaxed and have certainty regarding what is true. When you were initially interested, you simply thought, “How nice.” Then through inspiration, you became determined to move in that direction. The level of confidence is when you’ve really come home for good. You no longer have any doubt or hesitation. You’ve settled into your own space and reached the point of relaxed confidence. No longer do you have to search and wander, driven by feelings of poverty or insufficiency. You are at peace. You feel full and comfortable, finally able to enjoy the wealth and riches within your own home.
Confidence is very important. Without it you’re not going to attain enlightenment or be able to help other beings. Confidence encourages you to settle down, to relax into the fullness of what you already have so that you can see what is still to be realized or accomplished. You are able to feel at ease while learning to work with the whole situation, to creatively participate in the world and be of benefit to others. This effort is sustained by meditation.
Realization comes through meditation, not just by studying and analyzing. Too much thinking and intellectual analysis only leads to more conceptions, following one upon another to the point where you’re merely hovering over the actual experiences of life, carried away by endless conceptualization.
Dwelling in conceptions is an inherently unstable condition. You won’t find anything there. Eventually the imbalance of an overly intellectual approach gives rise to more doubt. The energy of your initial interest and longing is lost in the proliferation of abstraction and analysis. By clinging to conceptions, we end up in doubt. There is a saying in Tibet, “Expertise can become another form of stupidity.”
By over-indulging in intellectual analysis and conceptualization, we will be constantly plagued by doubt and hesitation. In clinging to concepts, we merely skim across the surface of knowledge and lifeexperiences, obscuring the original qualities of meaningful, participatory awareness. This prevents us from being of benefit to either ourselves or other beings.
To have confidence in the Dharma and faith in the wisdom of love and compassion is wisdom itself. It is the means to full realize our buddha-nature and develop the capacity to benefit other beings. Such confidence is not stupid or ignorant, but is the fruit of clarity. Basically, confidence comes about in two different ways: practice and meditation. By practice I’m referring to mantra recitation, visualization, and the cultivation of love and compassion. Meditation is the process of completely settling ourselves and relaxing into our true nature; the state of total openness. Continuous practice and meditation will engender more and more confidence and equanimity. By settling ourselves in this understanding, by coming home in this way, we begin to feel joyful and enriched, calm and at ease. Any notions of loss, insufficiency, or lack of fullness completely dissolve. With great happiness, we can work for the benefit of all beings.
Buddha said that the awakening of faith or devotion is the dawn of realization, like a great light rising and shining within the heart. Without devotion, you’re never going to feel any intimacy between yourself and the teaching or the lineage masters. You will feel separate. Devotion inspires us, bringing clarity, joy, and fullness, helping us to appreciate the richness and preciousness of this life.
Interest, longing, and confidence must unite in the heat of devotion or there will be no enlightenment. Not only will you be unable to benefit others, you will not even be able to benefit yourself. Without cultivating and focusing these three aspects of devotion, we’re lost. The mind easily becomes unsettled, emotionally unstable, and confused. Therefore the continuity of sustained interest, desire, and confidence is extremely important. Once you receive the teachings and begin to meditate and practice, do not neglect these three or you will spoil the growth of your devotion.
Devotion must be continuous, creatively engaged and regenerated in each moment. Interest, longing, and confidence must be lived all of the time. Often people will enjoy these beautiful qualities at the beginning, but after practicing for a while, the essentials are somehow neglected. They lose a vital ingredient and miss the point. If this happens, practice is fruitless. Being erratic and lazy can really spoil the beauty of the motivational strength that accompanies the beginning of practice. The confidence of devotion must be lived all of the time with great joy and deep appreciation for these blessings.
Consider how precious every aspect of our situation is: we have encountered the Dharma and are able to receive teachings. The opportunities presented by the teacher and the blessings of the lineage are very special. They have not happened accidentally, nor have they come about by themselves. There are many causes and conditions contributing to this unique occasion. Everything comes together in such a beautiful way. We have many good reasons to feel grateful and appreciative, to fully enjoy the total wealth of our situation and bring blessings to others. This understanding empowers us, inspiring trust and devotion.
If you continue meditating and practicing with devotion, you will come to the same realization as all the great masters did in ancient times. They offer us good examples of heartfelt application of these three phases of devotion because they actually followed the exact instructions we are presenting here. Assiduously implementing these teachings, they got results: they became enlightened. If we do the same, we will realize the same end. They are excellent examples, embodying the most important and advanced type of devotion, which we have been calling “confidence.”
When you begin to practice, lay aside all fears and expectations. Don’t expect huge results immediately, but on the other hand, don’t doubt the inevitability of the fruit or hesitate for fear of failure. Be fearless. We should really trust and have confidence in our highest principles: the reality of love, compassion, and wisdom. Even animals know that these are very special activities. Cultivating the ultimate state of love and compassion is inseparable from realization. This understanding is what is realized. On this basis, there is joy and peace. Believe and trust in the power of these qualities, and then continue to practice with confidence, courage, and commitment, free from hesitation, doubt, and expectations.
Our goal is enlightenment: to realize buddhahood and to help all beings come into that freedom.
You cannot expect buddhahood immediately. However, if you follow through with devotion, joyful effort, confidence, and commitment, you’re definitely getting closer and closer to full awakening. Every step brings you nearer to enlightenment, every bit of practice is leading toward the actualization of buddhanature, and the embodiment of its transcendent qualities.
Once you have a good understanding about the way to Nashville, then every step in that direction brings you closer. Do not expect to arrive in Nashville in five or ten minutes; that is impossible. If you do not get there as soon as you’d like, don’t feel discouraged or think, “I’ve already been walking for ten minutes and I still can’t even see Nashville. Maybe I won’t ever get there.” Just keep going with your heart full of joy and peace, appreciating the entire journey with confidence that every step is getting you closer.
If you cling to great, immediate results, your expectations can become a source of discouragement and you will soon get very tired. You will lose self-confidence and become exhausted by the feeling of not being able to get there. Such episodes can really disturb our growth and block any progress toward enlightenment. Succumbing to doubt and losing self-confidence are big obstacles to realization.
This applies not only to spiritual realization, but even to the common world. If you don’t have any confidence and there is a lot of doubt in your mind, you will not achieve much. That’s because the nature of doubt is laziness. All forms of laziness hold you back. You try to walk forward, but doubt pulls you back again. You go three steps forward and seven steps backward. You are making efforts, it looks like you’re moving alright, but the whole time you are only going back-and-forth and never getting anywhere.
Buddha often taught that the nature of doubt is two-headed. One head says one thing, the other says something quite different. Without one-pointedness, you’re not going to realize anything. In Tibet, the effects of doubt are symbolized by reference to a two-pointed needle, which is rather useless for sewing anything at all.
Free from doubt and armed with self-confidence, we can engage the practice in a deep way. This gesture is actually a form of wisdom. Wisdom is nothing but clearly understanding the value of buddhanature and being free from doubt. If you don’t fall under the influence of doubt, the confidence and clarity of certainty-wisdom are already present.
Certainty-wisdom will continue to guide you in all your practices and everyday activities, like the sun shining in a clear sky. Doubts are like clouds, which prevent true practice and achievement. Without devotion based on sustained interest, longing, and confidence, without certainty wisdom, there is neither enlightenment nor beneficial activities.
The importance of devotion was illustrated by Buddha Shakyamuni when he likened it to our hands which can gather up all spiritual qualities. If you don’t have any hands, what shall you do? Maybe you can grab a few items with your feet and your mouth can probably hold something, but that’s all. You can’t do anything major. Similarly, if we practice Dharma without devotion, we’re severely handicapped and won’t accomplish much.
Buddha also compared devotion to our feet, which are necessary to convey us along the path to buddhahood. Without feet, how can we go? We won’t get very far. Similarly, without devotion we can neither develop our inner realization nor benefit others. Buddha used other bodily features such as our eyes or breath to stress the vital importance of devotion. He compared it to an irrigation channel bringing water to a dry field. Devotion is the means to direct the blessings and realizations into the field of practice. Without this channel we can neither receive the teachings nor observe the precepts.
It’s not that devotion is important simply because Buddha said so. Through our own knowledge and experience we can understand that if we don’t have the energy of devotion, we’re not going to learn anything. For example, if you have no interest, you’re not going to practice. If you don’t recognize the value of the Dharma, if you have no desire to understand, you’re not going to be able to work at deeper levels. Devotion is what connects us to the primordial nature. In moving from the deluded state to the undeluded state, devotion is our means of passage.
Guru Padmasambhava explained the power of devotion by saying that if your devotion is characterized by confidence, then realization will arise instantly within you. Enlightenment and the blessings of the lineage will manifest spontaneously from this level of confidence in the Dharma. He also said that if you are free of doubt, you will have achieved realization. These statements indicate the doubttranscending power of certainty-wisdom.
This is not just something that Guru Padmasambhava and Buddha Shakyamuni said. The life stories of all the ancient masters such as Milarepa, Manjushrimitra, and other great teachers always recount the occasions when they initially contacted their gurus or received instructions for the first time. If you notice, many of them had great trouble coming to the point where they could actually receive the teachings. On the outside, it often looked like the teacher was punishing the student. Marpa seemed to be cruel and discouraging to Milarepa. Manjushrimitra looks like he was castigating Sri Singha.
In truth, they were inspiring their students and strengthening their confidence. Because these students had confident devotion, they were unfailing in their commitment. They did whatever their masters instructed them to do and never slackened in their devotion. They kept the faith and were unshakeable in their course, quickly achieving enlightenment within their lifetimes. These are clear examples of the importance of confident devotion as a pre-condition in order to absorb the essential teachings and practices.
There was a very famous Buddhist master known as Asanga. As a student practitioner he’d been practicing on Maitreya, the future Buddha, for about twelve years. Showing no signs of achievement, he decided to abandon his retreat. Approaching a village, he came upon a female dog with the lower part of her body rotting and full of maggots. As Asanga came closer, she barked and snarled with anger. He could see that she was in terrible pain and in a mood of great compassion he was moved to save the dog. As he tried to communicate what he felt in his heart, the dog instantly transformed into Maitreya.
As soon as Asanga saw Maitreya standing there, he jumped up and said, “I practiced on you for twelve years and received no auspicious signs. You are the uncompassionate one!” Asanga became a wellknown master during his lifetime, but at this point, he was still holding to expectations and being somewhat intellectual. That’s probably why he didn’t have any good signs as a result of practicing on Maitreya, even though he did it for twelve years.
Maitreya responded by saying: “Without devotion, no matter how close you are to the Buddha, you will not see the Buddha.” He added that even if a burnt seed is planted in good ground with manure, sufficient rain and ample sunshine, it will never produce any grain. This is a very famous stanza. Maitreya continued, “You only see me now because you felt unconditional love and compassion for that dog. Through unconditional love and compassion, all obscurations are removed. This is why you can see me in this Buddha-form. In truth, I was with you ever since you first arrived in the cave. I never left you for a moment. I was right with you the whole time! I was never separate from you, but you failed to see me because of your doubt.”
There are also stories from the great Tibetan Kadampa masters who lived sometime during the 11th through the 14th centuries. Many of those great adepts were known to have been quite humble and lived very simply—just practicing in a cave or in poor, rustic conditions. Some new students came to one of those masters and said “Oh great master, please grant us your blessings.” What was his answer? “Oh my students,” he said, “please give me your devotion first!” That’s the answer. If you give devotion to the teacher, the blessings will follow.
Devotion is not just some silly kind of belief or stupidity; devotion means to be unified with our highest principles in order to realize the true nature. Of course, you can continue to receive teachings and study, but eventually you have to practice. To begin practice we must have devotion. It is our connection with our true nature. Eventually, self and practice are not separate. You become the practice and the practice becomes you. But this is only realized through unceasing devotion and certainty-wisdom.
To summarize: Devotion is our head, joyful effort is the strength of our muscles, and meditation, bodhichitta practices, visualizing different buddhas, and mantra recitation correspond to our heart. End all your practices and meditations with the dedication of merit and aspiration prayers. These are like the completion stage or conclusion, which is akin to feet, moving us all along the path.
Transcribed by Padma Shugchang.
A DZOGCHEN APPROACH TO MEDITATION
By: Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
I would like to say something about meditation in terms of the Vajrayana approach to practice.In the Vajrayana teachings it is said that it is extraordinarily important to be able to generate faith as well as humility. It is also extraordinarily worthwhile to be able to understand the real nature of one’s own mind and establish the mind as intrinsically wholesome. One could say that one establishes one’s mind as the dharmakaya, although we can refer to it by many other names as well.
Basically, it is much more important to appreciate the intrinsic wholesomeness within oneself than to become totally engrossed in an under- standing of emptiness in the external world. In the Dzogchen context, we look at the basic awareness of the mind and try to interpret everything that we experience from the way in which consciousness functions. That is called “selfconsciousness.” Basic awareness is intrinsically related with that particular way of experiencing things.
It is therefore extremely important for us to rise in the morning like a human being with full awareness, rather than like an animal waking up. We should have pure awareness from dawn until the time we go to sleep; there needs to be unceasing awareness. When we wake up, we should imagine that we are in the presence of varieties of line- age holders who are the embodiments of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and we must remain in that particular state. Having done that, we should try to practice what is known as “the purification of the textures of the air.” However, first we must apply what are known as “the seven characteristics of Vairochana’s style of sitting meditation.” According to the Vajrayana teachings, it is extraordinarily important for one to pay attention to one’s physical condition and to remember that there are four authentic conditions.
If one places oneself in a physically authentic way, with a physically erect posture, one’s channels become straightened. If the channels become straightened, the wind is able to travel much more conveniently. If the wind is able to travel conveniently through the channels, the 2 bindu or “life essence” becomes that much more purified. One’s mind will then become more authentic, in proportion to the development of those three principles. When the mind becomes authentic and genuine, wisdom becomes authentic and genuine as well.
Adopt the Posture of a Buddha
In Vajrayana, the body is referred to as the “city of the vajra.” The reason one has to adopt the Vairochana posture in meditation is because Vairochana is the embodiment of the physical aspect of all the buddhas and, therefore, engaging in that particular practice is a worthwhile thing. Vairochana is traditionally understood as a symbol that is totally related with the notion of the sambhogakaya. The first characteristic of Vairochana’s posture is sitting cross-legged. The second is sitting erect so that one’s spine is as straight as an arrow. The third is resting one hand upon the other, just below the navel. The fourth characteristic is leaving one’s arms loose and outstretched so that one’s elbows are not touching one’s waist. The fifth characteristic is having one’s head slightly tilted forward, so that it is not flung backwards nor completely bent forward. The sixth characteristic is touching the roof of the mouth with the tip of the tongue and breathing normally. Lastly, one’s eyes should be half- closed and one’s gaze should be resting on the tip of one’s nose.
In relation to the practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, the reason one keeps one’s eyes open is that the emphasis is placed upon not rejecting one’s concepts and thoughts, but rather, on trying to incorporate them. If one is trying to put concepts and ideas out of one’s mind, one should have one’s eyes closed. In relation to Dzogchen, for instance, there are practices such as the three ways of gazing, which involve keeping one’s eyes open during meditation. Having one’s eyes open is intimately related with not wanting to reject one’s concepts and ideas and so forth.
It is very important to sit in a posture that is correct. The important thing is to rest in one’s authentic condition, the natural state of one’s own mind, so that one does not take too much interest in the mental events or feelings that are taking place. There has to be this unceasing awareness in relation to the varieties of experiences that one may be going through.
The seven characteristics of the Vairochana style of meditating are related to one’s body. The “purifying the texture of the air” practice has to do with wind. This is therefore an extraordinarily important practice. When one adopts the kind of physical posture just described, one will have one’s channels arranged in such a manner that they begin to become pliable. Once the channels become pliable, one’s winds become enhanced in the way in which it travels through the channels.
It has been said that there are three principal channels and so forth, but one does not have to think too much about that. Different teachers and different cycles of tantra can present this practice in a variety of ways; there is no single way in which must be done. When we do the practice of purifying the texture of the air, the thumbs press on the base of the ring fingers and the hands rest against your body. In this way, the thumbs are pressing particular channels related to the fingers and the hands are pressing certain channels in the body. We do this because the right channel travels to the right nostril and the left channel terminates at the left nostril.
We slowly move our hands from the top of the legs downwards to the knees (palms facing up), because those two channels are structured in the legs. We move our hands to the knees and then turn the wrists so that the palms face down, and retrace the same process in an upward motion. 3 We pull the hands up our sides and, as soon as we reach the level of the nipples, we shoot out our hands right in front of us and stretch our arms out. Then, we let our right arm drop inwards and our left arm makes an inward twist until our hand is resting on the side of our face and we are able to block the left nostril. Then we let the air out through our right nostril. It does not matter what kind of force we let the air out with. We can breathe out with extraordinary force or we can breathe out naturally and slowly.
In order to do the same with the right nostril, we have to go back to the original posture. We follow the same process: moving the hands to the knees and then up to the level of the nipples and then stretching out. Instead of the left hand, we adopt the right hand in order to block the right nostril; then we release the air through the left nostril; then we drop both of our hands on our knees and breathe evenly from both nostrils. This cycle should be done up to nine times in each session, but no less than three.
All of this concerns the way in which we must relate to our body. Then we have to think about the internal object of our intention. The reason we have to block the left nostril to begin with and let the air out from the right nostril is because the winds that we have in our daily life are totally impure. We should imagine that anger resides in the right side of the body, colored a darkish yellow. When we breathe out, we imagine that all of that impure air has been released. As a result, the aggression has left one’s channel structure as well. When we breathe out through our left nostril, we imagine that our wind, which is impure, is darkish red. We should think that all of our emotional conflicts related with desire have gone out with the breath. When we breathe out through both nostrils, we visualize the impure element of air as ignorance, and it leaves the body as a mass of darkish blue material. When we breathe out through both of our nostrils, that impure element of ignorance is also released.
One should not view this as some kind of device for relating to desire, anger, and ignorance, thinking, “Maybe this will work and maybe it won’t.” One must have a real conviction that this particular technique is the way to relate to one’s desire, aggression and ignorance. This is so because the tantric idea of transformation is an extraordinary one. One’s body can be transmuted into the authentic state of Buddha’s body, one’s speech can be transmuted into the authentic state of Buddha’s speech, and one’s mind can be transmuted into the authentic state of Buddha’s mind. One’s concepts, ideas, and thoughts can all be transmuted into a state of wisdom. As ordinary beings, we have to use the available materials at hand.
The tantric tradition is about being able to attain buddhahood in one lifetime. One does not have to spend three countless aeons and so forth following this path, as in the sutric tradition. One can attain buddhahood in one’s own lifetime. If one asks what kind of proofs there are for this, the answer is that the proofs are actually too great to enumerate.
If the posture of the body were not important, Milarepa would have simply lain down and gone to sleep in his cave. In fact, it did not hap- pen that way. He sat up and adopted the posture of Vairochana. Not only that, even after he was able to realize that his own mind was inseparable from that of the buddhas’ minds, he did not cease adopting Vairochana’s posture and sitting upright.
Occasionally, he would place a lamp on his head so that every time he dozed off the lamp would fall off. Sometimes, he would be sitting so consistently that part of his buttocks would be stuck to the rock underneath. What this particular story really illustrates is the fact that no matter what one is doing, one must not downplay or underestimate the importance of adopting the posture of Vairochana. 4
Having done this particular exercise, one must do Guru Yoga. In fact, Guru Yoga is known as “Calling the Guru from Afar.” One has to remind oneself all the time that the practice has been transmitted from guru to disciple and guru to disciple in an unbroken lineage and practice. Someone has not just popped up and said, “This is how it should be done.” If one were not adhering to a proper lineage system, this unbroken transmission would not be taking place. One’s guru becomes the embodiment of the whole history or legacy of a particular tradition, preceded by one’s teacher’s teacher and teacher’s teacher’s teacher and so on, right up to the fact that all the teachers have understood the authentic condition. The source of the lineage started with Samantabhadra or Vajradhara, depending on whether you adhere to the Dzogchen or Mahamudra tradition. Both represent the authentic mode of being at the source of these traditions.
Whether you are following the Kagyu system of Mahamudra or the Nyingma system of Dzogchen, in relation to Guru Yoga you can simply follow the same procedure. If you do not have any specific set of procedures in relation to this particular practice, you can simply imagine all the buddhas and bodhisattvas as the embodiment of your teacher and visualize that particular person present in front of you. Then, contemplate on that.
The crux of the matter in relation to Guru Yoga is to remain in that state and not be disturbed by your conceptual proliferations and constructions. Some may be able to remain in this state for ten minutes or so. If you are able to do that, you should consider yourself extraordinarily fortunate, because most beginners are not able to do even that. In any case, the idea here is that you should always be aware of the conceptual constructions that govern your mind. You should work with the mind in such a manner that you are not trying to handle the mind with kid gloves. In this case, the relationship between the one who works with something and the one who is worked with is totally identical. The one who is worked with is oneself and the one who is working with that particular thing is also oneself. So there is an internal relationship in relation to someone who is working with the mind and the mind that is being worked with.
Up to this point, one has never really worked with one’s own mind. The mind that has not been worked with is traditionally understood as being like a mad elephant, or a horse that has not been tamed. Usually, the way in which we work with our mind has to do with, “What can I do in relation to my behavior that would enhance my appearance?” and so on. Or one might work with one’s mind in relation to intellectual exercises in order to get a degree. But one has not directly worked with one’s mind.
When we start to lose touch with our own authentic condition, or the true nature of the mind, we begin to become totally disassociated. Then, at worst, people might think that commit- ting suicide will somehow or other bring them closer to their own true condition. The reason this situation can come about is because a person has failed to realize that things are not so substantial and real. No matter what we experience, nothing is solid and permanent and real. Because someone has not been able to understand that insubstantial nature of their experience, they want to commit suicide.
Usually the reason such tendencies arise is because we normally try to find happiness external to ourselves. We believe that some kind of external input will make us happy, not realizing that true happiness resides within oneself. If we are not able to find satisfaction within ourselves, with what is already there, we try to find satisfaction with things outside ourselves. Sometimes we try to sing and dance, other times we might try to get stoned on dope. Although we try a number of 5 things like that, eventually everything we do has the component of a hangover. If we do not really look at the way in which the mind operates, we can never satisfy ourselves. When we have a particular thing, we find that we only need more of that thing and then we need more again. We just want to accumulate and accumulate but we are never truly satisfied.
When we start to become totally disassociated from our authentic condition, we become childish. Shantideva said, “The reason that we are childish is because we elaborate upon even trivial things, magnifying the whole situation so that one single incident can turn our life around.” For instance, one moment we feel that so-and-so is our friend and the next moment we hear that they have said something terrible about us and decide that they are our enemy. When somebody says, “You are an extraordinarily intelligent person,” we feel so happy and begin to feel so arrogant. The next moment, when somebody says, “You have got such-and-such a flaw in your character,” we lose our confidence and begin to become totally agitated. That is why Shantideva said that we are childish — because we are so fickle in relation to our personalities.
If we are not able to work with our mind, our mind will continue to play tricks on us. The mind is able to do this because we have never really looked at what the true condition of the mind is. So, in this particular context, if we understand what the true, authentic condition of the mind is, we will begin to find that all happiness resides within oneself. We begin to realize there are so many resources that are already contained with- in what we are. However, because we do not understand our authentic condition, we feel totally helpless. This is because we have never worked with our mind, we have not tried to understand the authentic condition. Whenever anybody asks us a question, all we can say is, “I don’t know.” Even when we are going to die, we have absolutely no idea what is going to happen to us. This is because we have never been able to work out what our true, authentic condition is. For instance, when Gampopa parted with his teacher, Milarepa, he was given certain instructions. Milarepa said: “When you go back to your home- land, instead of getting too involved with your uncles and aunties and so on, try to look at your own true, authentic condition, the dharmakaya, as your home. When you want to indulge in delicious meals, try to think about living on your own meditation. When you want to wear warm clothing, think that the practice of inner heat yoga is your clothing.”
What that really portrays is the fact that everything that we do and everything that we engage in has an inner component to it. Milarepa was trying to present the side to what we normally believe to be the case. The basic point here is to be able to realize that the continuation of the lineage and transmission is an extraordinarily important thing.
Shamatha — Calm Abiding Meditation
In terms of meditation, if we simply want to gain a certain amount of composure and a certain amount of concentration, the practice of Shamatha is quite sufficient. However, if we think that Shamatha practice is a state where one is totally devoid of thoughts, that is not the true way to practice Shamatha. In Shamatha practice, one has to have an intentional object. One can have two intentional objects, in fact — one real, the other ideal. The real object can be some external, physical object and the ideal one is our inner mental processes.
If one has a physical, intentional object, such as a table or some such thing, one can concentrate
one’s mind on that. However, one is not free from struggle during this process. One has to
continuously try to bring one’s mind back to that intentional object. So Shamatha is far from
being a blank state of mind.
The ideal intentional object has to do with imagining something in the external world that does not exist. For instance, if you are looking at the floor at a distance of about three feet, you can imagine a ball of light on the floor. The ball of light is not part of the feature of the carpet or the floor; one has created it. That is known as the ideal intentional object.
For instance, Vimalamitra said that it is good to practice Shamatha meditation by relying on a particular Buddha image—whether it be a painting or a statue or whatever—and simply try to concentrate on that. This is a totally worthwhile exercise.
The Six Flaws
In terms of meditation, the most important thing is to be able to have mindfulness and awareness. When we start to meditate, there are all kinds of conflicts that may happen between the meditator and his or her inner states. Every time we meditate, we begin to be completely misled by our thoughts, ideas and so on. We have to continuously bring our attention back to whatever we are experiencing. It is too much to expect that the moment we sit down, we should be a great meditator. According to the Buddha, there are six flaws that can arise in relation to one’s meditation. We have to know how to notice them when they arise.
The first flaw is the obstacle of laziness. Whenever we start to think about meditation, we think we should do it tomorrow.
The second flaw is the obstacle of forgetfulness. Even though we may have read about meditation and philosophy and so on, as soon as we start to meditate, we forget what the instructions are all about. Even though we persevere with meditation and are not lazy and forgetful, that does not mean that we can be totally free from obstacles.
There is also an obstacle known as depression. Depression is intimately related with elation or agitation. When there is depression, this basically means that the person is not able to think anything, or able to identify their experiences. They are simply in a state of total blank- ness. Agitation has to do with the mental factor where someone is so elated or agitated that their mind is travelling too fast to be able to catch up. If someone looks at that person, they may appear to be sitting in perfect meditation posture, but internally, they are all over the place.
There is a story about Drukpa Kunley, who was known as the Divine Madman. At one stage, he and his brother decided that they would go and meditate in total isolation, with- out any human contact whatsoever. They tried to make a pledge with each other that they would have no human contact. Drukpa Kunley was told by his brother, “I hope that you will keep your word about having no human contact and not leave your meditation cave.” However, after about three days, things started to change. Drukpa Kunley’s brother found Drukpa Kunley running around town doing all kinds of things—carrying other people’s loads, acting as a coolie, and so on. His brother said, “What is happening? I thought we promised each other that we were going to live in total solitude, yet here you are running around in the market- place.” However, Drukpa Kunley was behaving in this manner because he knew that his brother had all these conceptual ideas running through his mind, despite being locked up in his meditation cell. This was his way of telling his brother that physical solitude does not mean mental solitude.
Meditation has to do with seeing one’s body as an embodied body. The body becomes the locus within which the mind resides. If the mind is somewhere else, running all over the place, one can be in perfect meditation posture, but it is hardly worthwhile because one has become disembodied in some ways.
If we look at meditation and how we should meditate, it is extremely worthwhile to break one’s meditation sessions up into short periods, rather than thinking that meditation means to be able to sit for a very long time. As Guru Padmasambhava instructed, “It is better to persevere with meditation at short intervals, than to meditate for a long period of time without any results.” He gave the example of water drops: when water drops accumulate, they can gather force; but each drop remains separate, each drop is unique unto itself. In a similar way, meditation sessions should be allowed to accumulate by being broken up into short intervals.
The fourth obstacle is related to when the application of the antidotes backfires. When one becomes so engrossed in thinking that one must be mindful and aware, then one becomes completely saturated by all kinds of ideas and concepts and so on. By applying the antidotes too much—always trying to be mindful, always trying to be aware—awareness and mindfulness begin to backfire. This obstacle is known as the “misapplication of the antidotes.”
The fifth obstacle is related to not applying the antidotes enough. With this one, one becomes too relaxed, too lax, too careless. We might allow the mind to become distracted during meditation, or we might not bother to meditate at all. Even though we know we should be doing sitting meditation—even though we know how to do it, how to relate to the breath—we still tend to think that we would rather be doing something else.
The sixth obstacle is absence of coordination. This means that when we are doing sitting meditation, we just give in and become completely vulnerable and sensitive so that we feel pierced by the bullet of emotions—depression, drowsiness, laziness, passion, and aggression—all of those things. We become a victim of all these emotions, because we are not able to coordinate things properly and precisely. We just give in to our own discursive thoughts and subconscious gossip.
Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche delivered this teaching in February 1987 at Kagyu EVam Buddhist Institute, Melbourne, Australia. It was published in the Fall 2004 edition of the PBC Pema Mandala magazine.
TEACHING ON THE MEDICINE BUDDHA
By: Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and
Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Edited by Ed Contaldi (Pema Ngodrub)
Buddha Shakyamuni gave the Medicine Buddha teachings at the perfect moment and at the perfect place – Vaishali, India. As he meditated on healing, he emanated light toward the eastern direction, and streams of light returned to him from an eastern pure land. All who had gathered for the teaching began to see the eight Medicine Buddhas visible in the sky above them. At that moment, Buddha Shakyamuni presented the teaching that would be preserved as the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha. This teaching became very prominent in India and came to Tibet in the eighth century. Master Shantarakshita, who was known for the beautiful praises and sadhanas that he composed for all the Medicine Buddhas, first introduced the Medicine Buddha teaching in Tibet. His teachings on the Medicine Buddha have been passed down in an unbroken lineage. The Medicine Buddha practices are important in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
According to the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni in the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha, the Medicine Buddha is a presently living buddha who embodies the healing energy of the buddhas. He possesses the power to pacify all physical, mental, and emotional obscurations. In his pure land in the eastern quad- rant of this universe, known as “Pleasing Upon Seeing” or “Lovely To Behold” (men do in Tibetan), the Medicine Buddha continually turns the Wheel of Dharma, healing beings in all universes and giving teachings on all levels, especially the Mahayana. The whole realm of his pure land is a repository of medicines that heal all kinds of illness by balancing the elements of earth, air, fire, water, and space.
According to Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings, there are seven other emanations of the Medicine Buddha, each with his own color and pure land. Sangye Menla, the Medicine Buddha we are discussing here, is blue and dwells in Pleasing Upon Seeing. These various Medicine Buddha emanations are of various colors, such as gold, yellow, pink, red, and blue. They dwell in pure lands with names such as Undefeatable, Filled with Jewels, and Having No Suffering. The Eighth Medicine Buddha, who is gold in color, is Buddha Shakyamuni and his pure land, called “Inseparable,” is this world.
Countless pure lands exist, extending in all directions. Pure lands are not spontaneously occurring phenomena; rather, they are the direct result of the aspirations and work of bodhisattvas. These great beings who are on the path to buddhahood seek the best way to benefit beings. Bodhisattvas aspire to generate pure lands as a form of compassionate action; purified universes become havens that the bodhisattvas dedicate to the cultivation of the spiritual abilities of advanced beings. Eventually, bodhisattvas are able to refine the samsaric nature of a chosen universe to that 2 of the perfection of the pure-land state. Such an action greatly increases bodhichitta in this and all universes.
The Medicine Buddha provides his pure land for advanced beings who aspire to take rebirth in order to heal and benefit beings caught in samsara. Highly advanced beings and bodhisattvas seek out his pure land in order to reach final enlightenment through prayer and spiritual practice. Through the intent and power of practice, a universe becomes saturated with the blessings of the buddhas. Gross and impure elements are purified by the presence of a bodhisattva.
At some point in the distant past, the Medicine Buddha was a human being like us. Destined for buddhahood, his bodhichitta nature grew over the course of countless lifetimes, thus creating a mind so vast that he easily gained knowledge of an infinite number of universes. At some point in time, the Medicine Buddha’s awareness touched upon a universe whose transformation to pure land status would benefit great numbers of beings. He then worked tirelessly toward his goal of purifying that universe. The Medicine Buddha’s aspiration to emanate a pure land of healing was fulfilled simultaneously with his final attainment of the state of a living buddha.
At some point in the process of becoming a buddha, a bodhisattva will define the avenues by which he or she will most directly and effectively benefit sentient beings. These clear aspirations arise from bodhichitta. In this way, countless types of pure lands come into existence for all types of beings, meeting the infinite diversity of their needs. As a form of skillful means arising out of bodhichitta, advanced beings and bodhisattvas are able to seek rebirth in a universe that will provide specific types of benefits.
While still a bodhisattva, the Medicine Buddha likewise proclaimed a set of twelve aspirations that defined the specific ways in which he sought to benefit beings. He announced them to the infinite field of buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout space. In addition, he vowed that he would defer his transition to buddhahood until the day he had completed the purification and perfection of the pure land, Lovely To Behold.
Declaring a series of twelve vows, he described the bodhichitta practices that would shape the course of his journey through the ten bhumis of the bodhisattva path. He chose these attributes to be the objects of his prayers and practices. Ultimately, the Medicine Buddha’s commitments have the force of truth. They are a distillation of his bodhisattva path. We can have full confidence in them.
The Twelve Aspirations of the Medicine Buddha
1. In my pure land, may all beings exhibit the 32 major marks and the 80 minor marks of a buddha. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
2. May all sentient beings born in my pure land radiate glowing light – a light that dispels all dwelling in dark-ness. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
3. Whoever is born in that pure land, may they always enjoy material abundance and be free of all worldly concerns. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
4. May the beings in that pure land possess a stable vision of the pure view. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
5. May those born in my pure land pay utmost attention to the purity of their conduct. May the results of negative karma due to previous actions be deferred to the time of most benefit to spiritual growth. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
6. May they all emanate health and growth in body and mind. May they be relieved of any discomfort or disorder that hinders spiritual growth. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
7. May my name become a mantra that heals all ailments. May the sound of my name and the image of my nirmanakaya be a balm that eases all pain. May the sound of my name or visualization of my image cure physical troubles and sickness. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
8. May those who wish to change gender have that wish be fulfilled. May that choice lead directly to enlightenment. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
9. May those who hold wrong views or beliefs regarding dharma immediately develop right view when they hear my name. As a result, may they engage in bodhisattva activities. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
10. May those who live in fear and are easily controlled, who feel threatened with incarceration and punishment, leave behind their fears of catastrophe. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
11. May those whose subsistence has depended on predation and the killing of other beings have all their material needs met upon hearing my name. May their freedom result in the recognition of their innate bodhisattva nature. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
12. Upon hearing my name, may those who suffer from any kind of hunger, thirst, or cold have all their needs provided for. May their food, drink, and clothing free them from mundane concerns so that they may begin to benefit others. If this does not come to pass, may I not reach enlightenment.
After the great Medicine Buddha made these bodhisattva vows, he kept these promises throughout all his lifetimes as a bodhisattva. When we practice the Medicine Buddha, we should remember these commitments and aspire to do the same, for the sake of all living beings. If we do this with love, compassion, and bodhichitta, it will benefit us and all other living beings.
The Khenpo Rinpoches gave this Medicine Buddha teaching on May 24-26, 2003, at Padma Samye Ling.
A BRIEF TEACHING ON THE PRACTICE OF NOBLE CHENREZIG, THE BUDDHA OF INFINITE COMPASSION
A teaching given by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche during the Nyungne Retreat at Palden Padma Samye Ling, October 8, 2006.
The gracious and kind Buddha gave many teachings on the Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Dzogchen paths. The essence of all of these teachings is to bring more peace, calm, and joy to ourselves and others. This is the heart of the teachings of the Awakened One, and thus every Buddhist practice points in the same direction. But how do we start to cultivate the authentic peace and joy that will result in happiness and benefit for all living beings? We cannot begin this process outside ourselves; we have to begin with our own hearts and minds. The Buddha explained that the genuine starting point of our spiritual path is love, compassion, and wisdom, along with joyful effort. As members of the sangha, we need to remind each other to continually restrengthen these virtuous qualities. In the ocean of Dharma, there are no emergency exits or detours that bypass these beautiful teachings!
Guru Padmasambhava repeatedly taught that love, compassion, and wisdom—together known as bodhichitta—are the indivisible nature of the Buddha’s enlightened mind: love is the Buddha; compassion is the Buddha; and wisdom is the Buddha. Chenrezig (Skt. Avalokiteshvara), the Buddha of Infinite Compassion, is the embodiment of these virtuous qualities. Therefore, absolute Chenrezig is none other than love, compassion, wisdom. The figure we visualize during Chenrezig practice is symbolic, yet practicing on this relative manifestation will usher our minds into the absolute state of bodhichitta.
Many great practitioners and lineage masters of the past experienced various kinds of obstacles to their practice. However, by receiving instructions on Chenrezig and meditating according to those instructions, they were able to overcome every difficulty and cultivate absolute bodhichitta. These masters eventually became beautiful symbols of love and compassion. By opening our hearts and minds to the lineage blessings, we follow the footsteps of all the noble beings and enjoy the nourishing food of Chenrezig practice, which comes to us like a well-prepared meal. In this way, we ourselves begin to recognize the absolute Chenrezig in our own hearts and minds.
The practice begins by visualizing ourselves as Chenrezig. This visualization arises from our strong foundation of bodhichitta, the essence of our love, compassion, and wisdom. All our habit patterns of duality, hesitation, and doubt are overpowered by the absolute state of Chenrezig. As we begin to meditate, it is important to remember that we are not imagining ourselves to be something other than what we truly are; in reality we are reconnecting with our own innate nature, which is like a treasure that has been hidden for quite a long time. This treasure is our buddha-nature, or tathagatagarbha, the essence of all sentient beings. Due to not recognizing the natural state of absolute bodhichitta—our buddha-nature—we have wandered endlessly in the world of duality, the world of samsara. Hence, by invoking the absolute Chenrezig without any doubt or hesitation, these virtuous qualities inherent in us all will spontaneously manifest as our self-visualization.
The Vajrayana teachings instruct us to bring forth our “vajra pride” or “vajra confidence” when we visualize ourselves as the deity. This means we are not going to let hesitation and duality undermine and cover up what we really are. For a very long time, our nature has been obscured by the six poisons of (1) attachment, (2) anger, (3) ignorance, (4) jealousy, (5) arrogance, and (6) doubt. The curtains of these six poisons have veiled the wonderful qualities of our buddha-nature, the inherent, absolute Chenrezig. Through our practice on the Buddha of Infinite Compassion, we will eventually put an end to our obscurations and unleash the power and beauty of our primordial nature.
Negative emotions—characterized by the six poisons—are the primary cause of the arising of existence in the six realms, and the inhabitants of each of these realms are dominated by a specific poison. For instance, the power of anger arises as existence in one of the hells, and thus hell beings are constantly tormented by anger. Strong attachment arises as existence in the hungry ghost realm, and thus hungry ghosts are constantly tormented by desire and attachment. Ignorance arises as existence in the animal realm, and thus animals are obscured by dullness and stupidity. Doubt and hesitation arise as existence within the human realm, and thus humans are constantly second-guessing, anxious, and worried. Jealousy arises as existence in the realm of the asuras, or demigods, who are driven mad by jealousy. Finally, arrogance is reflected as existence in the god realms, where gods experience long periods of bliss and rapture, only to eventually plunge back into the sufferings of the lower realms at the time of death.
The flux of these negative emotions is not limited to this present lifetime, but has continued since beginningless time. As a result, the poisons have gradually become prolonged habit patterns. We have difficulty recognizing ourselves as the absolute nature of Chenrezig, because we have become accustomed to being distracted and overpowered by the strength of the six poisons. Due to these habit patterns—rooted in our misunderstanding of our innate nature—we have created a chain reaction of cause and effect. This causal chain constantly creates karma and propels us into the different realms of existence. On the relative level, engaging in Chenrezig practice will restrengthen and ignite the power of our bodhichitta; in turn, the power of our bodhichitta will reach out to benefit ourselves and all beings of the six realms. On the absolute level, engaging in Chenrezig practice will help us transcend the six poisons and experience realizations we may then share with limitless sentient beings. By helping other beings uncover their intrinsic nature of absolute Chenrezig, we will be able to ease their difficult experiences, bringing peace, calm, and joy to their minds.
While visualizing ourselves as the Buddha of Infinite Compassion, we should not perceive ourselves as ordinary, mundane beings in ordinary, mundane surroundings. Rather, we should view our physical form and environment as the body of Chenrezig and his mandala. We should experience our conceptions as none other than the wisdom mind of Chenrezig. And we should hear all sounds as inseparable from the mantra of Chenrezig. In summary: all sights are perceived as the display of Chenrezig’s body; all sounds are heard as the voice, or recitation of the mantra, of Chenrezig; and all thoughts about ourselves and all beings are understood as inseparable from the mind of Chenrezig. Maintaining this view in our awareness, we continually recite Chenrezig’s mantra. This is a brief description of the special Vajrayana teachings on the “three vajra states,” which describe appearance, sound, and awareness as deity, mantra, and dharmakaya, respectively.
The condensed, six-syllable mantra Om mani padme hung (pronounced “om mani peme hung”) is associated with all the emanations of Chenrezig. Although initially it may be somewhat difficult to maintain continual awareness of the three vajra states during practice, it is important to recite this mantra without distracting or unpleasant thoughts. Your mantra recitation must be accompanied by an attitude of love and compassion: Simply relax your mind in the natural state of emptiness while reciting the mantra, which is actually the self-reciting echo of great emptiness. This provokes a chain reaction of bodhichitta that extends to all universes and to all beings in the six realms. It spontaneously removes their obstacles, obscurations, and sicknesses, fulfilling all their wishes. Meditating in this way while abiding in rigpa—the state of great emptiness, or Dzogchen—is the practice of Chenrezig.
The Buddha’s teachings state that Chenrezig possesses one thousand arms because he is the embodiment of the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate aeon, and his eleven heads are symbolic of enlightenment. Many times we speak of Chenrezig as a bodhisattva, but this doesn’t mean he has not achieved complete enlightenment; Chenrezig is actually a fully-enlightened buddha who, due to his great compassion for all sentient beings, appears to us in the form of a bodhisattva. His eleventh head is that of Buddha Amitabha, signifying that Chenrezig and Amitabha are one and the same, whereas his tenth head is that of Hayagriva, who is the wrathful form of the buddha Amitabha. Again, this shows us that Chenrezig is inseparable from Hayagriva. When we refer to Chenrezig as a bodhisattva, we should understand that this is just one of the many ways to describe him.
The word “bodhisattva” itself comes from the Sanskrit words bodhi, or “enlightenment,” and sattva, meaning “courageous one.” Thus, in his enlightened state, Chenrezig is courageous. His love, wisdom, and compassion are indestructible due to this courage: no matter what happens, Chenrezig tirelessly continues to benefit every single being without ever becoming bored or confused. Because Chenrezig continuously cares for all beings without exception, free from hesitation and weariness, he is referred to as a “bodhisattva.” The Buddha’s teachings also state that the great Buddha Chenrezig appeared on this earth in the form of a bodhisattva in order to reach out, protect, and ultimately benefit all beings.
Sometimes when we chant the mantra of Chenrezig—Om mani peme hung—we add the syllable Hri, his heart syllable. These six syllables both symbolize and protect all beings within the six realms. Om is an antidote to arrogance and provides protection to all beings within the god realms. Ma eliminates the affliction of jealousy, thus protecting all asuras of the desire realm. The third syllable, Ni, is able to dispel the negative emotions of both doubt and hesitation. This syllable protects human beings from their afflictions within the human realm. Pe is another very special syllable which purifies the darkness of ignorance, protecting all beings within the animal realm. The next syllable, Me, uproots and purifies all forms of greed, thus protecting all beings within the hungry ghost realm. The syllable Hung uproots the negative emotions of anger. As such, it protects all beings within the hell realms. In this way, the six-syllable mantra protects and eases the suffering of beings by purifying the six negative emotions, all of which cause the arising of the six realms. This mantra also purifies the consequences of the six negative emotions, including all the difficulties experienced by the various beings of the six realms.
When reciting the Chenrezig mantra, you can visualize that white light emanates from the Om syllable directly to the god realms. Due to the power of the mantra and this white light, suffering within the god realms, and in particular the suffering that gods experience due to their power struggles and subsequent downfalls, is immediately purified and removed. Arrogance, which is the principal cause of suffering within the god realm is also instantly removed. If you can, visualize that with the removal of suffering, the energy of the six syllable mantra continually echoes throughout the god realm, creating a peaceful and soothing sound.
From the second syllable, Ma, green light emerges along with the full six-syllable mantra, shining directly into the asura realm. The troubles of the asuras, including their constant arguing, fighting, and quarrelling, as well as their continual experience of anger, rage, and war are instantly removed. Jealousy, the cause of this suffering, is similarly removed. Based upon the power of Chenrezig’s peaceful mantra, the sound and energy of love and compassion echo gently and soothingly throughout the asura realm, showering down countless blessings. While continually reciting the mantra, visualize that peace, joy, appreciation, and calm arises in the hearts and minds of every being in the asura realm.
From the third syllable, Ni, yellow light emanates throughout the human realm, instantly removing the principal troubling emotions of doubt and hesitation. Within the busyness of the human realm, anxieties, worries, hopes, expectations, and all similar afflictions are completely removed, bringing forth goodness, calm, and peace. Having thus removed the doubt and hesitation of all human beings, great confidence, joy, and satisfaction arise in their hearts and minds. As a result, all humans abide peacefully and harmoniously, coexisting with great appreciation and love for one another. Along with the continuous recitation of the mantra, visualize that the energy of love and compassion echoes throughout the entire human realm like a peaceful song, showering down infinite blessings.
From the fourth syllable, Pe, light blue light emanates to the animal realm and totally removes their suffering, which arises from dullness and stupidity of mind. These afflictions are rooted in ignorance, the primary cause of suffering in the animal realm. All ignorance is completely removed. Imagine that great wisdom arises in the hearts and minds of every animal, in addition to the dense power of love and compassion. As the mantra continually echoes throughout the animal realm, the great blue light of the mantra showers down, uprooting all troubles and difficulties. As a result, all animal beings experience great peace, joy, and happiness.
From the fifth syllable, Me, very powerful and soothing red light emanates directly to the hungry ghost realm. The moment this red light and the six-syllable mantra touch beings in this realm, they experience blessings that remove their sufferings related with all kinds of poverty, hunger, and thirst, as well as their tremendous fear, insecurity, and feelings of danger. Visualize that each of these troubles are completely and instantly removed. Attachment and greed, the primary causes of suffering in the hungry ghost realm, are also completely annihilated. Then imagine that all hungry ghosts obtain a great abundance of luxuries, prosperity, and wealth, thereby dispelling all the difficulties associated with greed and attachment. As in the other realms, great love and compassion arise within each being as the mantra resounds, and each hungry ghost uncovers the inner state of absolute Chenrezig.
From the sixth syllable, Hung, dark blue light emanates to the hell realms, removing all the sufferings of extreme heat and cold, as well as the painful experiences of terrifying and torturous situations. Visualize that all hell beings immediately become extremely relaxed and happy. Anger, the principal cause of the arising of existence in the hell realms is instantly removed, so that hell beings no longer experience any difficulties; instead, all beings have great confidence, joy, peace, and happiness. Again, the power of the Chenrezig mantra ceaselessly echoes throughout the hell realms, showering blessings that nurture a state of love, wisdom, and compassion. Thus all six realms are transformed into the state of Chenrezig with the recitation of the mantra.
Practicing according to these instructions will activate the power of absolute Chenrezig. Of course, in the beginning we may not be able to concentrate on all the visualizations at the same time; but if we can continually focus on the different aspects of these visualizations during our meditation and recitation practice, we will activate its beneficial powers and bring about realization in all sentient beings. Additionally, this practice will invoke the qualities and actualize the realization of Chenrezig hidden within us. By using these techniques for the benefit of all sentient beings of the six realms, we will also sharpen our own realization.
As we mentioned earlier in our discussion of the three vajra states, all forms, sounds, and aspects of awareness should be considered the form, sound, and mind emanations of Chenrezig. While relaxing our minds in the present state of awareness, we continually recite the mantra of Chenrezig with the understanding that it is no other than the sound of emptiness. Practicing in this way is the union of shamatha and vipashyana meditation, one of the special techniques of the Vajrayana. Instead of engaging in shamatha and vipashyana separately, we practice them simultaneously and achieve realization that will quickly benefit ourselves and other beings.
To summarize, we begin the practice by visualizing ourselves as Chenrezig. This visualization is based upon our indivisible, innate nature of love, compassion, and wisdom—or bodhichitta—which together represent the absolute Chenrezig. Then we invoke the actual living, historical Chenrezig from the pureland of Potala and visualize him in front of ourselves. Next, we perform the seven-branch accumulation practice in his presence. Thus we simultaneously visualize the actual Chenrezig and ourselves as Chenrezig, which helps us easily accumulate merit and purify the negativities.
It is important to bring these teachings into a single, beautiful state, and to activate the power of the practice with our devotion, bodhichitta, and confidence. Therefore, we should meditate on Chenrezig without any doubt, hesitation, or conceptualization. Following the instructions in this way, we will be able to benefit ourselves and other living beings. This is a brief teaching on the practice of Noble Chenrezig.
Edited by: Andrew Cook and Sujata Ghosh
Transcribed by: Losang Chokyi Yana
By: Khenpo Palden Sherab
prepared by Lobsang Tashi
The Ngondro Practices are usually done by a Tibetan Buddhist before he/she begins a specific deity practice. There are two divisions in the ngondro classification. The general (sometimes called outer or common) ngondro practices, and the extraordinary (sometimes called the inner or uncommon) practices. The goal of the general practices is to turn the mind away from the distractions of the world toward spiritual practice. The goal of the extraordinary practices is to purify our basic emotions.
– Lobsang Tashi
Tashi Delek, good morning. Today I am going to talk about the Ngondro practice. The Ngondro practice is a very, very special practice. Without having this practice, there is no way to reach enlightenment. It is very, very special. Ngondro practice is the embodyment teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha gave many different teachings, but Ngondro practice is the most condensed embodiment teaching. All of the teachings from Hinayana to Dzogchen are yoga teachings. However Ngondro, is THE condensed teaching which we can apply without neglecting any of Buddha’s teachings. We do Ngondro practice both for our own enlightenment and for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Ngondro, of course, is a Tibetan word. Ngondro means going ahead. Many people maintain that Ngondro is a less important practice, kind of a pre-school practice. But these people really misunderstand. Ngondro is really an essential practice. It must be done, fully accomplished, before enlightenment can be reached. If we want to reach enlightenment, this practice must be done because Ngondro practice is the root of enlightenment.
If we want to plant a tree and have oranges, or flowers, then definitely we have to plant a seed. We can’t expect fruit and flowers without planting the seed. To bear fruit the tree has to be deep rooted. Similarly, before we can reach enlightenment, Ngondro practice must be done, and must be rooted deep within our heart center.
Without paying attention to this practice, you won’t get results from any other practice. You won’t achieve the results you want, because you won’t have the foundation. Other practices may look full of excitement, but without Ngondro it’s like building a nice, fancy house without any foundation. The house won’t last for a long time. The shelter would not be good for you and not good for others. The house will require a large insurance cost. Without Ngondro as a basis, other practices will bring some obstacles, not enlightenment. This is why Ngondro is so very important. It is a foundation practice. It is a root practice. It is an essential practice. Every other practice must incorporate Ngondro practice. Only then can we can reach enlightenment. Then we can be true Bodhisattvas, truly beneficial beings for all other sentient beings.
Ngondro practice is part of the Vajrayana teachings. In Vajrayana, the teacher, the guru, is very important. Of course we have many different teachers. However, all teachers can be manifestations of the state of Buddha. Particularly in Vajrayana Buddhism, your teacher directly communicates the teachings to you, brings you to the teachings, and invokes your primordial natural state. This is why we represent the teacher as Buddha.
This Ngondro text we are using has a special prayer to the Lama. We say the Lama prayer as the beginning of the Ngondro practice. For example, if we begin practice early in the morning, first we connect with the primordial wisdom mind of the Lama, then we do the Ngondro practices. We should not do the Ngondro practices with regular mundane conceptions. We should do the Ngondro practice with the understanding that the excellent qualities of the primordial natural state are our own true nature. Thus we should do the Ngondro practice with an attitude of devotion, love, and compassion.
Now we shall delve into the text. First is the prayer calling Lamas from afar. There are three different versions of this prayer, the long version, the medium version, and the very condensed version. The version in the text we are using today is the very condensed one.
NAMO LUMED TEN GYI GONPO LAMA KHYEN
Homage! Lama, infallible constant protector, (you who) know!
If you are very busy, you can just say this line and then begin the Ngondro practice. Here you are calling the Lama from afar. Actually you are really invoking your primordial natural state of mind.
This state of mind can be seen in one sense as being far away from our normal, daily state of mind. Our ignorance is really deep and is a great hindrance to reaching our primordial state of mind. On the other hand this state can be seen as right here. It is never really beyond you. It is never separated from you. It is always here. What you need to do now, is to have sincere longing, devotion, and confidence that you CAN reach your primordial state of mind which will then be your guide. The Lama is not separate from your primordial state of mind. Your primordial state of mind is your absolute teacher and will guide you through every situation.
It is not necessary to feel that you are calling the Lama from a long distance away, but having this attitude shows the extent of your devotion, your sincerity, and your desire to invoke your inner wisdom, your primordial natural state of mind. You revere your Lama , just as you revere your absolute teacher, through love, compassion, devotion, and confidence. This is why you chant the prayer to the Lama. Your duality conceptions are constantly producing obstacles, so we revere our primordial natural state in order to dispel these obstacles. Our ignorant conceptions are like helpless children. They call to the primordial wisdom state to dispel ignorance and duality. The primordial natural wisdom is like a mother to our ignorant conceptions.
This Lama prayer is part of the devotion prayers, part of the refuge prayers. It shows your confidence and understanding of the true nature of the Lama. Now we begin the Ngondro practices. The first practices are called the general Ngondro practices. These are also called ìdeveloping the four reverse attitudes. These attitudes reverse your mind from its diluted phenomena state.
DAL JOR DI NI SHIN TU NYED PAR KA
The freedoms and the favorable conditions of this (human birth) are extremely difficult to obtain.
The first of the attitudes concerns the precious human body. The most precious human bodies are the ones benefitting all sentient beings. In general, human beings are all very special. In particular though, the most precious humans beings are those who are really working for all other sentient beings, who have positive attitudes and positive thoughts. These human beings are very rare and very precious.
There are many different qualities which make this human body very special for us. This human body, in this life situation, is free from many obstacles presented to other forms of life. With our potential for positive mind, virtue, understanding, love, and compassion, we are different from other beings. We can see and understand things deeper than some other beings. Therefore our human conditions are very special. As students of the Dharma we don’t focus only on the surface level. We are looking for something deeper, and want this to happen for other sentient beings also. We are trying to reveal our natural essence. This attitude, (which we express with our body, speech, and mind) combines with all the circumstances of our human body to make this human life very very precious. It is important to recognize just how precious this moment is. We should be happy and have joy in this. It is very important. Right now we are really free. We can do anything that we like. We have opportunity, freedom, and capabilities. Feel joy in this opportunity and be a very happy person.
KYE TSHED MI TAG CHI WAI CHO CHAN YIN
Everything born is impermanent and bound to die.
The second attitude is concerned with changeable natural states. Thinking about how the world is changing and moving is really very important. Everything is changing. The seasons, time, everything is always changing, not going to last beyond one moment. In gross levels, in subtle levels, everything is changing. We are also changing all the time. Even though we have gained this precious human body and all our special circumstances, these are not going to last forever. The essential changing nature is part of everything. It doesn’t happen just with us. Everything is changing, what you see, what you perceive, what you think. Everything is continually moving in a changing state. This is the natural system, a law of nature. Everything has to change.
We cannot prevent or stop things from changing. Rather than moving in the direction of the change, what we do is to practice “clinging”. Clinging, (attachment) means trying to hold onto things as they appear to be right now. But even though you cling, change will not stop. When we develop strong attachment to things as they appear to be right now, and then when we see them changing, we feel suffering and sadness. By our attachments we try to prevent things from changing, things which by their very nature must change. This attitude can only produce suffering. When we truly understand that everything by natural law must change, then we will understand that there isn’t anything to be attached to. Without attachment we won’t have too much suffering or sadness.
We must relax our mind, and let things move and change as is their nature. With this attitude we won’t have worries; we won’t have much suffering. You move your mind along the direction of change, because you know that change has to take place. If snow comes its OK; that is the nature of the winter. If flowers come, that’s also OK; that is the nature of spring. We move along with the changes. Along our life path, many changes will come. If your mind is open and relaxed about the changes, you will get some results.
Right now we are here. It is January 1991. In January 3091, we will all be gone. That is the nature of things. No point in worrying about it now. What we have to do is not cling to everything. We must use the opportunity of this moment. This is really most important. We should use this opportunity and take advantage. We should not miss this golden opportunity. Every time is really the right time. Use this moment as a precious moment. Use this moment to move toward your purpose. This attitude will benefit you in this lifetime as well as in the next lifetime.
GE DIG LE KYI GYU DRE LU WA MED
The results of virtuous and unvirtuous actions (which are causes) are inexorable.
Now we shall explore the third attitude, the cause and effect system. This is also known as ìthe understanding of the system of the cause and effectî. Everything really depends upon the cause and effect system. The law of cause and effect is always working. If a cause and condition are present, there will definitely be a result. Results must come from their causes and conditions. Right causes and conditions produce right results or effects. This never alters. This always operates. If we don’t have the right causes and conditions, there will not be right results no matter how much we hope or expect them. If we have the right causes and conditions, definitely the right results will come. It is inevitable. Even if we say we don’t want them, the results will definitely show up.
Inwardly everything is like this also. Positive inward causes and conditions bring positive inward results. Negative inward causes and conditions bring negative inward results. Mixed positive and negative inward causes and conditions bring mixed inward results or effects.
Knowledge of the cause and effect system is very important in Buddhism. Karma is the name of this system. You are the one who gets the results of your own causes and conditions. You are the producer of your own causes and conditions; you are therefore the producer of your own effects. Whatever you do, the results will come to you. By understanding this system, we can learn the importance of having more positive attitudes. Reduce your negative activities, and learn more positive activities. This is the lesson of this line of the text.Cause and effect are inevitable.
KHAM SUM KHOR WA DUG NGAL GYA TSHOI NGANG
The three realms of cyclic existence have the nature of an ocean of suffering.
This line of the text brings us to the fourth understanding. The reference here to suffering reminds us of the natural changing state and our mind of attachment. As long as we have attachment and clinging, we will always react, and our reactions present a lot of difficulties. By the very nature of samsara we are not comfortable all the time. Actually, because our clinging mind continually reacts to change, samsara is always uncomfortable. For as long as you don’t give up your attachment and clinging, that is as long as your uncomfortable mood will stay. The whole point is that we should not be too attached to temporary sensory pleasures. They are going to change. Bring your mind more into the detached state. Then practice Dharma.
Think of all of these teachings; the precious human body, the changing impermanent state of everything, the system of cause and effect, the very nature of samsara as suffering. Don’t be too attached. Use this precious opportunity. Do something good for yourself and good for others from now on. Turn your mind toward the positive. Turn your mind in the Dharma which is of benefit to you and benefit to others. Develop less grasping and clinging. For what is the real meaning of Dharma? Dharma means love and compassion, or Bodhichitta, and non-violence based on the truth. That is really Dharma. Continue on this path with your mind, speech, and body and you are turning in the Dharma.
To this point in the text we have spoken of the general Ngondro practice (the four attitudes). We have been really looking at the samsaric levels, not using any deduction, or reasoning. We have been looking at things are as they are. This is the general Ngondro practice. You need a good understanding of the general practice before you can proceed.
Now we will explore the extraordinary Ngondro practice.
The first extraordinary practice is called the Refuge Practice. Refuge Practice is the root of all Buddhist practices. Refuge is the foundation of all the Buddhisms, not just for the Hinayana or the Mahayana practices.
DI ZUNG CHANG CHUB NYING PO MA THOB BAR
From now until attaining the heart of enlightenment
LAMA KON CHOG SUM LA KYAB SU CHI
I take refuge in the Lama, the Three Jewels.
Saying these two lines shows your determination and your devotion, as well as your confidence and your close feeling for the objects of Refuge, from this day until you reach enlightenment. The objects of refuge are the Guru, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. When we take Refuge with prayer and meditation. First we chant the Refuge lines in the text, then we do the meditation. In our meditation we visualize Guru Padmasambhava in the sky in front of us, sitting in a rainbow, sitting on a one thousand petal lotus. On the lotus are a sun and moon disc. Guru Padmasambhava sits on the moon disc, in the royal relaxing posture, wearing the different robes. Visualize this scene is being in the wisdom display. These are not solid concrete objects but rather the embodyment of all wisdom, love, and compassion.
Guru Padmasambhava is surrounded by many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, surrounded by all the Masters. As they sit in front of you, you take this Refuge. If you have a shrine in front of you, you can mentally transform the shrine into the lotus, sun, and moon disc. Then visualize Guru Padmasambhava and all the refuge beings surrounding him, all radiating wisdom light. The shrine and all the area around it, including yourself, is thereby transformed into the palace of the pure land of Guru Padmasambhava and all the Buddhas. You also are within the palace, within the pure land. Say the refuge chant, with devotion, with joy. Then preform the prostrations.
When you do Ngondro practice you also do prostrations. Sometimes these prostrations can be done when you are doing the Guru Yoga practices. In the Ngondro practice, doing prostrations together with the refuge is correct and more practical. There are two types of prostrations, short prostrations and long prostrations. In Ngondro practice we do the long prostrations, the very extensive ones. While we are doing the physical prostrations, we chant the refuge prayer and do the visualization meditation at the same time.
To do the physical prostration we stand straight up and fold our hands at the heart center. Our feet may be close together. This mudra is called the Mudra of the Blossoming Lotus, or The Wish-fulfilling Mudra. This mudra is a symbol of the heart. You are opening your heart toward Guru Padmasambhava and the Three Jewels.
Now put your folded hands on the crown chakra, then on the speech chakra, then on the heart chakra. Bow down on the floor. In the short prostration your five points must touch on the floor. The five points are the forehead, the two palms, and the two knees. All five points must touch the floor. Inthe long prostration, you slide completely onto the floor. It’s like swimming on the floor (laughter); with all of your body touching the floor. Next swing back and stand up.
To begin the second prostration, you hands don’t have to start at the heart center. They can go right to the crown chakra. Repeat the prostrations again, and again, and again. With the long prostration, you stretch out all the way. Your belly, your knees, your forehead, your body, all of you touching the floor. When you are getting up from the long prostration it is all right for your knees to be on the floor.Doing many long prostrations can be difficult at first. Although it wasn’t designed for exercise, this is a good side effect of doing prostrations. It is a lot of exercise. Many people have said that when they do one hundred thousand prostrations over a short period of time, their bodies become very light. They find it very good for arthritic joint pains.
In Tibet the people do a lot of prostrations. Sometimes they preform the long prostrations all the way from their homes in eastern Tibet to Lhasa. By this practice they are making a strong connection between their own body and the very famous statue of the Buddha called the Jowo Rinpoche in Lhasa. It is said that this statue was consecrated by the Buddha himself. Guru Padmasambhava and many great masters have also concentrated this statue. In Lhasa the Jowo statue at the Jokang temple is a central focus for pilgrimages. So some people do long prostrations all the way from Eastern Tibet to Lhasa. This type of pilgrimage may take years to complete. After a trip like this their bodies becomes very light. They say that they have to carry something heavy on their backs to hold them down on the ground. (laughter)
Next we shall discuss the Generation of Bodhicitta.
DA NE ZUNG TE KHOR WA MA TONG BAR
From now until samsara becomes empty
MA GYUR SEM CHAN KUN GYI PHAN DE DRUB
I shall accomplish the benefits and happiness of all sentient parent beings.
While we say this Bodhicitta prayer, we should continue to hold in mind the refuge visualization which we generated earlier. The objects of Refuge now become the objects of Bodhicitta. In front of Guru Padmasambhava and all the Buddhas, you take these Bodhicitta vows, Bodhicitta precepts. Having Bodhicitta extends your attitude of love, compassion and wisdom to all sentient beings without any exceptions. Having Bodhicitta means maintaining this attitude until all sentient beings are completely liberated from suffering and their deluded states. Your courage, commitment, love and compassion must be continued for that long, without any expectations. By taking Bodhicitta vows, you show the extent of your courage and commitment. You desire to bring all sentient beings into a joyful state. You show the extent of your love, compassion, and wisdom.
The practice of Bodichitta is called The Special Practice of the Mahayana. Mahayana is a sanskrit word. Maha means great and ìyanaî means vehicle. Mahayana is Great Vehicle Buddhism, and it is Bodhicitta that makes the vehicle so great. This is very important. The school which teaches the great Bodhicitta technique is the Mahayana school. Without Bodhichitta there is no way to gain enlightenment. No matter which school of Mahayana teaching you study, without Bodhicitta, love, compassion, and wisdom, there is no way to reach enlightenment.
Bodhicitta is the very root of enlightenment, the root of Buddhahood, the root of benefit for all sentient beings, the root of all happiness and joy. Practice understanding, love, compassion, and wisdom for the benefit of all sentient beings. We say these lines of the Bodhicitta prayer in front of the objects of refuge as witnesses. In front of the objects of refuge we generate love and compassion again and again and again.
The next Ngondro practice in the text is that of Mandala offerings.
TSHE RAB KUN GYI LU DANG LONG CHOD PAL
The bodies enjoyments, possessions, (and) glories of the succession of all my lifetimes
TSHOG NYI DZOG CHIR KON CHOG SUM LA BUL
I offer to the three jewels in order to complete the two accumulations.
Mandala is a sanskrit word which means entirely, completely, totally, without missing anything. Offering the Mandala you are offering the entire universe. Whatever you can imagine, whatever you can think of, offer these to Guru Padmasambhava and the three Jewels. Make your offerings to all the great Masters, Buddhas and Bodisattvas.
In the long Mandala practice, the grains of rice and all the rings and circles symbolizes the complete cosmos, the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets, the earth, water, oceans, sentient beings, galaxies, everything. In the short mandala practice which we do daily, we perform the Mudra of the Mandalas. The mudra also symbolizes the complete cosmos. The center of the mudra is called the center mountain, the mountain called Sumeru. The four corners of the mudra symbolize the four continents, the four directions. Visualizing the cosmos represented by this mudra, you say the offering lines.
Mandala offerings are also known as part of the generosity practices. You make these offerings to the Realization Beings through your own generosity. By making mandala offerings, you accumulate the two types of merits, wisdom merit, and accumulation merit. Wisdom merit depends mainly on meditation and your deepening understanding of your true wisdom nature. Accumulation merit comes from your generosity, your devotion, your loving and compassionate attitude toward all sentient beings. By Mandala offerings you gather meritorious energy to yourself, which you can then share with all sentient beings through dedication. By dedicating the merit you have gained for the benefit of all sentient beings, you dispel your own ignorance and obscurations.
This is the teaching on the Mandala offerings.
The fourth practice is called meditation on Vajrasattva.
CHI WOR LAMA DOR SEM YER MED PAI
Above one’s head is Vajrasattva, inseparable from the Lama.
KU LE DUD TSI GYUN BAB DRIB JANG GYUR
From (Vajrasattva’s) body, a nectar stream descends, purifying (my) obscurations.
Vajrasattva is no other than Guru Padmasambhava; therefore Vajrasattva is also your teacher. Guru Vajrasattva is a totally enlightened being and has the special power to remove obscurations. When we meditate as Guru Padmasambhava we are meditating on the Nirmanakaya Guru. Vajrasattva is a Sambogakaya Guru. Guru Padmasambava and Guru Vajrasattva are the same, there is no difference between them. In this visualization we see Guru Padmasambhava transform into Vajrasattva. Then we meditate on Vajrasattva.
Visualize Vajrasattva above your head so that you both are facing in the same direction. In the refuge visualization, the objects of refuge face you. This time you and Vajrasattva both face the same direction. Above your head is a one thousand petal white lotus. Above the lotus is a moon disk, and on the moon disc sits Vajrasattva in vajra posture. This visualization is not of solid objects. Vajrasattva and his consort appear in wisdom rainbow bodies. Vajrasattva and his consort are in union. Both are white in color. It is a rich white color, like when a snow covered mountain is touched by moon light, a very rich, bright white. Seeing Vajrasattva as the embodyment of all the Buddhas, of all the Buddha families, know that Vajrasattva is also of the same nature as Guru Padmasambhava.
Then remain just as you are, in meditation, nothing else has to change. Recite the 100 syllable mantra of Vajrasattva. When you begin the recitation of the mantra, invoke the blessings of the male and female bodies of Vajrasattva as they extend bliss in all directions. Blessing nectar starts to descend from Vajrasattva in the form of light and enters your central channel through the crown chakra. The light fills your crown chakra, pushing away all obscurations, obstacles, and diseases. The light nectar gradually descends to your speech chakra, filling that chakra and pushing out all negativities, diseases and obstacles. The light nectar then fills your entire body, and you become as completely pure and clean as Vajrasattva. Your entire body is filled with the wisdom light nectar of the Vajrasattvas.
Each time you say the 100 syllable mantra, see yourself receiving more and more nectar, becoming more and more purified, losing more and more obscurations, obstacles, and diseases. Continue reciting this mantra with a single pointed mind, great devotion, and sharp concentration.
OM VAJRASATTVA SAMAYA MANU PALAYA
VAJRASATTVA TE NO PA TISHTHA DRI DHO ME BHA WA
SU TO KHAYO ME BHA WA
SU PO KHAYO ME BHA WA
ANU RAKTO ME BHA WA
SARWA SIDDHIM ME PRA YATTSA
SARWA KARMA SU TSA ME
TSITTAM SHRE YAM KURU HUNG
HA HA HA HA HO!
BHA GA WAN
SARWA TA THA GATA VAJRA MA ME MUNTSA VAJRI BHA WA
MAHA SAMAYA SATTVA AH
Supreme praise to the Vajrasattva samayas. Grant your protection Vajrasattva. Remain firm in me. Make me totally satisfied. Increase the positive within me. Be loving towards me. Bestow all the Accomplishments as well as all the activities. Make my mind virtuous! From my heart I will have great joy in the Four Boundless, Four Empowerments, Four Joys, and the Four Kayas. Bhagawan, All the Tathagatas, Vajrasattva, don’t abandon me. I pray that I may become a Vajra Holder. Great Samaya Sattva! AH! (signifying the non-duality of all.)
After recitation of the long mantra, you should feel that Vajrasattva smiles and says “oh noble daughter (or noble son).. now you have been completely purified of all obscurations, obstacles, and diseases.” After saying this both Vajrasattvas melting into light and the light flows down to your heart center. In that moment you become Vajrasattva, and the entire universe is transformed into the pure land of Vajrasattva. Understanding this fully, recite the short mantra of Vajrasattva for as long as you have time.
OM VAJRASATTVA HUM
Visualize yourself as Vajrasattva dissolving into the primordial natural state. You have no more perceptions, no more concentration, no more thinking. You merge with the primordial natural state and remain in that state for as much time as you can.
OD ZHU DAG NANG DANG DRE RO CHIG GYUR
(Vajrasattva) melts into light and becomes mingled in one taste with one’s own perceptions.
Now comes the practice of Guru Yoga.
RANG NYID DORJE NALJOR DUN KHA RU
Oneself (is) Vajrayogini and in the sky in front
When we practice Guru Padmasambhava Yoga, our task is to completely change our frame of reference. This means that we ignore our mundane conceptions of who we think we are. These selfimpressions exist only on the surface. In Guru Yoga we return to our primordial natural state. We stop seeing ourselves and all things around us on the surface level. We see ourselves as Vajrayogini. We see all external things as part of the pure land of Vajrayogini. Vajrayogini is the primordial natural wisdom state. We appear as the wisdom rainbow body Vajrayogini, wisdom mother of all the Buddhas, mother of all the realization beings. With an understanding of this primordial wisdom nature, we can invoke the true nature of the Buddha.
Logically therefore, our understanding the true nature of the Buddha is dependent upon our understanding of the true primordial wisdom nature. Guru Padmasambhava and Vajrayogini are of the same nature. Every time we practice Guru Yoga with this understanding, we gain more experience of the primordial wisdom nature.
As we end our Ngondro practices we must dedicate the benefits we have gained for the welfare of all sentient beings. Dedication motivation is very special. It is part of Bodhicitta practice as well. Dedication is very powerful. Even though you can’t see its effect immediately, dedication definitely has an effect on subtle levels. Do not ignore good motivation and dedication. These definitely help on subtle levels and blossom into the gross levels. The Buddha always mentioned how important dedication was.
Even in the regular world in which we live, we should have good intentions for others. If somebody has best wishes for us, we might feel happy. Our happiness is an effect of the intention of the good wish. If somebody curses you or has bad wishes for you, you feel upset. So the bad wishes also have their effect. It is your intention in your actions that is very special, for intention goes much deeper than physical activity. Our intention really changes the focus of our actions and speech. Therefore our intention must be very pure and positive. Pure and positive intention leads to beneficial activities that will change the world, will bring peace and harmony to the world.
This is the teaching on the Ngondro Practice.