Quotes by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The more you examine Buddhism, the more you will discover its greatness.
Dharma is not a therapy.
The whole teaching, the whole Tripitakas, the whole 84000 teachings of the Buddha is actually to have the fun. It’s true, but the disagreement between you and the Buddha, between us and the Buddha, is how to have that fun. (WOMPTSF)
Relax Your Expectations
If you have neither the time nor the inclination to become acquainted with the view that samsara is an illusion, try, while you are still alive and healthy, not to get too attached to your plans, hopes and expectations. At the very least, prepare yourself for the possibility that nothing will work out. Everything good in your life could, in the blink of eye, become the exact opposite; and everything you value could suddenly become worthless. (LID)
If a guru only imposes a single method, such as meditation, the students will be deprived of a wealth of skillful means.
If a guru does not value deity practice, the door of attainment of the students will be extremely narrow.
A guru who has no devotion toward his own guru or the Dharma will cause the blessings of the students to vanish like a mist. (TGDB?)
However beneficial a practice appears to be, however politically correct or exciting, if it does not contradict your habit of grasping at permanence, or looks harmless but insidiously encourages you to forget the truth of impermanence and the illusory nature of phenomena, it will inevitably take you in the opposite direction to dharma.
Frustration as Insight
An exasperating lack of concentration, devotion, or inspiration might be just what you need to make the extra effort to tune in to your practice fully. Alternatively, of course, it may topple you in the other direction and stop you practicing altogether—a temptation you must resist at all costs. Always remember, though, that frustration with your spiritual path is often an indication that you are becoming a genuine dharma practitioner. (TS)
Devotion is Awareness
It may sound as if you must have devotion in order to have an understanding of the view, that devotion ignites the practice of the Dharma. But as you become more seasoned in practicing the Dharma, especially the Vajrayana, the gap between devotion and the goal of the devotion becomes very small.
As you become more skilled in practicing, you will see that devotion is the awareness of impermanence, devotion is the renunciation mind, devotion is the compassion for all sentient beings, devotion is none other than the experience of dependent arising.
Most important, the moment there is devotion, you have the view, and there is awareness of shunyata. (TGDB?)
Bodhicitta should not be [understood as] the policy of a la-la land... where everyone is goody-goody. (PFTFA)
In the degenerated time, the Buddha-Dharma is even more potent, so the degenerated time should not be used as an excuse for discouraging oneself. It should be encouraging.
The whole teaching, the whole Tripitakas, the whole 84000 teachings of the Buddha is actually to have the fun. It’s true, but the disagreement between you and the Buddha, between us and the Buddha, is how to have that fun. (WOMPTSF)
How we interpret information and our experiences of the world depends entirely on how much merit we have accumulated.
Once you understand that real Dharma practice is not just about formal sitting meditation, but a never-ending confrontation with and opposition to pride and ego, as well as a lesson in how to accept change, you will be able to start practising right away.
Some people say you practice to achieve the same rank as the guru. No. You aren’t promoted to a certain state. You have to become inseparable. (TGDB?)
Kongtrul Rinpoche suggested we pray to the guru, buddhas and bodhisattvas and ask them to grant their blessings, “So I may give birth to the heart of sadness.” But what is a “heart of sadness”? Imagine one night you have a dream. Although it is a good dream, deep down you know that eventually you will have to wake up and it will be over. In life, too, sooner or later, whatever the state of our relationship, or our health, our jobs and every aspect of our lives, everything, absolute everything, will change. And the little bell ringing in the back of our head to remind you of this inevitability is what is called the “heart of sadness”. Life, you realise, is a race against time, and you should never putt off dharma practice until next year, next month or tomorrow, because the future may never happen. (NFH)
When you are looking for luck, the door to un-luck opens. Luck is when you are content with whatever you have.
Awareness is the quintessential teaching of the Buddha–from the awareness of cool air as you breath in and then out, to the profound awareness of natural perfection. And with boundless compassion and courage, the sole purpose and activity of all the buddhas it is to ring the alarm bell that brings us to this awareness.
Mistakenly believe that dharma practice will make one feel peaceful, and living with a carefree life, this is a great misunderstanding. Buddhism is not a treatment; instead, dharma in fact is specifically designed to flip your life. Therefore, when your life is thwarted at every turn, why complain about this? If you practice, and life has not capsized, then this is a sign that everything you did in practice is not effective yet.
Certain critiques of Buddhism actually enhance my devotion to the teachings and to my teachers, because I feel the dharma defies any such criticisms. But I also feel that some of these writings can be harmful in their effect. There may be many beings whose connection to the dharma is just about to ripen, and these writings can jeopardise their opportunity. In our life we encounter a multitude of obstacles and difficult circumstances. But the worst possible obstacle is to be prevented from engaging in an authentic path to enlightenment.
In this age, when people naively jump to conclusions based on the writings of those who try to warn about the hazards of guru-disciple relationships, such critiques may result in the tragic destruction for many people of their only chance of liberation from the ocean of suffering. In the sutras, it is stated that someone who rejoices even momentarily over something that leads to such a lost opportunity will not encounter the path of enlightenment for hundreds of lifetimes.
Generally, I think that when we want to expose a fault or present an opinion, two attributes are necessary: one should know the subject thoroughly, and one should not oneself have the faults that one is criticising. Otherwise, one will be, as the Tibetan proverb describes, “a monkey who laughs at another monkey’s tail.” Let us not forget that as human beings we are victims of our own narrow-minded interpretations. We should not give so much authority to our limited points of view: our interpretations and subjective perspectives are limitless and almost always stem from our own fears, expectations and ignorance.
It would be of great amusement to many learned Tibetan scholars if they could read some of the presentations written by Westerners on such subjects as Buddhism or gurus. It is like imagining an old Tibetan lama reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or listening to a beautiful aria. He would most probably think the former uninteresting and that the latter sounded like a cat being skinned alive!
It is better not to distort things with our limited interpretations at all, but if we have to, then at least we should be more aware of how powerful and one-sided our interpretations can be. For example, I could claim all kinds of things about the way that Westerners approach the study of Eastern cultures. I could easily put forward an interpretation, one that might seem entirely valid, that claims Western conceptual frameworks stem from a basic attitude of arrogance in the way that they construct themselves and others. (DBSB)
If someone is able to hear teachings about emptiness and tolerate them intellectually as well as practically and emotionally, it is an indication that they have a real affinity for the dharma. (NFH)
It’s not the clothes you wear, the ceremonies you perform, or the meditation you do. It’s not what you eat, how much you drink, or who you have sex with. It’s whether you agree with the four fundamental discoveries the Buddha made under the Bodhi tree, and if you do, you can call yourself a Buddhist
If we could not be bought by praise or defeated by criticism, we would have incredible strength. We would be extraordinarily free, there would be no more unnecessary hopes and fears, sweat and blood and emotional reactions. We would finally be able to practice "I don't give a damn." Free from chasing after, and avoiding other people's acceptance and rejection, we would be able to appreciate what we have in the present moment. (WMYNAB)
As long as you accept and practice these four truths (all compounded things are impermanent, all emotions are pain, all things have no inherent existence, nirvana is beyond concepts) you are a “practicing Buddhist.” You might read about these four truths for the sake of entertainment or mental exercise, but if you don’t practice them, you are like a sick person reading the label on a medicine bottle but never taking the medicine. On the other hand, if you are practicing, there is no need to exhibit that you are Buddhist. As a matter of fact, if it helps you to get invited to some social functions, it is totally fine to hide that you are a Buddhist. But keep in mind that as a Buddhist, you have a mission to refrain as much as possible from harming others, and to help others as much as possible. This is not a huge responsibility, because if you genuinely accept and contemplate the truths, all these deeds flow naturally. (WMYNAB)
All because of Cherishing Oneself...but It's Never Too Late
Right - (རང་དོན་ལ་ཞེན་ན་བྱང་སེམས་མིན།) Yes, that’s right. So we were talking about “If you have interest in your own thing, interest, if you have attachment to your self-interest, you are not a bodhisattva". This can be understood on this level which we just talk at. That’s the highest level. Based on this wisdom, of course, even on the relative level - cherishing oneself; let’s assume there is a self. Even on that level, cherishing just oneself but not others, is from the management point of view, is wrong. It does not exist, you know, there is no such thing as me alone having fun, the rest of the people – who cares. It doesn’t work like that. Everything is interdependent.
Oh, I don’t think I have to elaborate too much. The whole situation on this earth is, the deterioration of the earth, is very much to do with cherishing the self. It’s because of that, not because of George Bush at all. It’s very unfair to blame him. It’s because we need to take shower. It’s because we need to, you know, sprinkle water on our mown, eh, this lawn. It’s because we need to drive car, each and every one of us. Stuff like that. And there is like the whole China, India, waiting to do that; already accomplishing to do that. So, actually, eh, someone like George Bush – I think he has purified a lot of the karma, for being the catalyst and the scapegoat for many of, every one of our individuals cherishing the self. So, I don’t think I need to elaborate too much on this. Bodhisattva attitude is really a timely attitude. It’s really one of the, probably, the only strategy to save this earth. It’s not too late - Never too late. (PFTFA)
If it were not for certain people’s greed for wealth, the highways would be filled with cars powered by the sun, and no one would be starving. Such advances are technologically and physically possible, but apparently not emotionally possible.
If one knows that everything is impermanent, one does not grasp, and if one does not grasp, one will not think in terms of having or lacking, and therefore one lives fully.
“THE INNER BUDDHA As Jigme Lingpa said, the moon has all the qualities necessary for its reflection to appear on the surface of a clear lake. If the moon did not have a shape or substance, and if it didn’t reflect the light of the sun, it would not be possible for it to appear on the water’s surface. Furthermore, the quality of clear water is that it can reflect, and when the moon and the water—two entirely separate entities—are perfectly aligned without any obstruction between them, a reflection of the moon will appear effortlessly, without intention. Similarly, our inner Buddha has qualities that enable it to manifest effortlessly and without intention. When there are no obstacles, the Buddha will reflect spontaneously in sentient beings who have the merit. Some” (TGDB)
A spiritual path is only important to those who can accept the notion of the continuous manifestation of phenomena from past, present and future lives. For those unable to believe and trust this truth, to follow such a path would be pointless.
The sutras liken reincarnation to the relationship between teachers and students. A singing teacher teaches students how to sing. His students learn techniques and benefit from direct experiential advice from their teacher. But the teacher doesn’t remove a song from his throat and insert it into a student’s mouth. Similarly, reincarnation is a continuity of everything we have learnt, like lighting one candle from another, or a face and its reflection in a mirror.
If there were no continuous existence, in other words if there were no such thing as reincarnation and we really did only live once; if, as many followers of new-age spirituality suggest, everyone, from a mountain yogi to a hoodie from the Bronx or an ambitious New York banker, merely became one with the elements when they died, what point would there be in practising the dharma or any other kind of spiritual path? Why bother sitting on a meditation cushion for hours on end? Why restrain yourself from indulging in all the good things the world has to offer? Why miss out on anything at all?
You might imagine the tamer your mind, the more likely you are to see the wildness of others, but quite the opposite happens.
A mature practitioner will usually have a far purer perception of others than a beginner. The more enlightened qualities a practitioner acquires, the humbler he will become; the more time he spends with his guru, the greater his devotion; and the more he hears and contemplates the dharma, the quicker his pride and arrogance will diminish.
The supreme sign of a great practitioner is not that he sprouts a halo, has extraordinarily auspicious dreams, experiences bliss continuously, or can foresee our miserable futures. The supreme sign is that he no longer has any interest in material gain, fame, the respect of others, or being the centre of attention. (NFH)
If you cannot accept that all compounded or fabricated things are impermanent, if you believe that there is some essential substance or concept that is permanent, then you are not a Buddhist.
If you cannot accept that all emotions are pain, if you believe that actually some emotions are purely pleasurable, then you are not a Buddhist.
If you cannot accept that all phenomena are illusory and empty, if you believe that certain things do exist inherently, then you are not a Buddhist.
And if you think that enlightenment exists within the spheres of time, space, and power, then you are not a Buddhist. (WMYNAB)
The guru should be Nonjudgmental
A guru should be able to see a student’s potential and know that any negative quality the student exhibits can be transformed and that therefore that student is a worthy recipient of aspiration. There should be no competition, no preference for some students to get enlightened faster; it’s not a race. If the guru judges too much, valuable time will be wasted. Excessive judgment indicates a lack of understanding of the fundamental view of dependent arising and equanimity. A path designed by such a guru will have a panicky and finicky quality. (TGDB)
People like us have dualistic compassion, whereas the Buddha’s compassion does not involve subject and object. From a Buddha's point of view, compassion could never involve subject and object. This is what is called mahakaruna - great compassion.
You Should Be Frustrated
Practicing dharma is necessarily a frustrating business. What practitioners, especially beginners, often fail to realise is that frustrations are the signposts of our success.
An exasperating lack of concentration, devotion or inspiration might be just what you need to make the extra effort to tune in to your practise fully.
Alternatively, of course, it may topple you in the other direction and stop you practicing altogether—a temptation you must resist at all costs.
Always remember, though, that frustration with your spiritual path is often an indication that you are becoming a genuine dharma practitioner. (NFH)
Avoid being distracted
Meet as many lamas as you can, hear as many dharma teachings as possible, particularly if you are eager to pursue the higher paths, and try to socialise with people from the same lineage you are practising.
But try to avoid being distracted by other practices that at first glance appear more attractive than those you are already engaged in.
…I have been told that ‘smile’ is currently a hashtag for Buddhism. It’s so embarrassing! Vimalakīrti would never have tolerated it. If he were alive today, he would ruthlessly rip apart and demolish the so-called ‘spiritual’ teachings that are currently being touted as the ‘truth’. What would he have to say about Buddhism’s ‘smile’ hashtag, and using ‘mindfulness’ as a therapy, I wonder?
[From “A Celebrity Falls Sick” by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, commentary to the Vimalakīrtinirdeśa-sūtra, free download here: https://khyentsefoundation.org/vimalakirti/]
Try imagining Guru Rinpoche above your head, or sitting in front of you, or in your heart.
● As you chant the mantra, imagine an uninterrupted stream of nectar flows down from the guru and dissolves into you.
● At night visualise your guru sitting on a lotus in your heart.
● As you eat, imagine your guru in your throat.
● If you are facing an obstacle, perhaps a dispute in your family, or if you are depressed, visualise your guru on your shoulder, wrathfully baring his fangs.
● Longchen Nyingtik Ngöndro practitioners can imagine sparks of fire and scorpions shooting out from Guru Rinpoche’s vajra, the scorpions snapping up each and every obstacle and swallowing them until they are all completely annihilated.
● As death approaches, visualise your guru in the form of red Amitabha and transfer yourself into Amitabha’s heart, again and again.
Imagine that everyone and everything you encounter throughout the day is none other than Guru Rinpoche.
This is quite a profound practice, and beginners may find it a little difficult at first, so start by doing it on an aspirational level. (NFH)
"There is a prayer where Jigme Lingpa* says, “Buddhists and Bodhisattvas, please make sure that what ever I want never happens.” Buddhist blessings, he said is when 100 things that you wish never come true but 1,000 things that you dare not wish come true. That's Buddha's blessing. So, if you are a serious Dharma practitioner, you are fulfilling your wish when things are going wrong. You are seeing the truth, actualising it and when that is happening, you should see it as a blessing."
Mind's ultimate nature, emptiness endowed with vividness,
I was told is the real Buddha.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of hierarchy.
Mind's ultimate nature, its emptiness aspect,
I was told is the real Dharma.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of political correctness.
Mind's ultimate nature, its vivid aspect,
I was told is the real Sangha
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with thoughts of equal rights.
One cannot disassociate emptiness from vividness.
This inseparability I was told is the Guru.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with depending on chauvinist lamas.
This nature of mind has never been stained by duality,
This stainlessness I was told is the deity.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with the categories of "gender" or "culture."
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.
The concept of dakini is very complex. Prana, which is the wind, movement, energy. or activity is the dakini. So the wind is the outer form, or the outer expression of the dakini.
Ordinarily, when talking about the dakini, we always seem to have in mind a beautiful lady. I guess that is a fairly limited understanding of the dakini. In fact the dakini is the activity aspect of the buddha nature.
The purity aspect is the nadi, which are the veins or channels. And the essence aspect of the buddha nature is bindu, which is guru.
In other words, guru, deva and dakini are one essence, three aspects. But this is something you will come to learn slowly so there is no need to worry.
In the ngondro, there is a tendency to briefly mention words like this. Later on down the track, in the more elaborate teachings, and when you receive teachings on the developing meditation, then you will understand.
Anyhow, it is good to put these terms in you head so that you get used to them. Of course, this is not the only purpose, since in the Longchen Nyingthik Ngondro you are also taking refuge to prana, nadi and bindu. (LNNPM)
By and large, human beings tend to prefer to fit in to society by following accepted rules of etiquette and being gentle, polite, and respectful. The irony is that this is also how most people imagine a spiritual person should behave. When a so-called dharma practitioner is seen to behave badly, we shake our heads over her audacity at presenting herself as a follower of the Buddha. Yet such judgments are better avoided, because to “fit in” is not what a genuine dharma practitioner strives for.
Think of Tilopa, for example. He looked so outlandish that if he turned up on your doorstep today, you probably would refuse to let him in. And you would have a point. He would most likely be almost completely naked; if you were lucky, he might be wearing some kind of G-string; his hair would never have been introduced to shampoo; and protruding from his mouth would quiver the tail of a live fish. What would your moral judgment be of such a being? “Him! A Buddhist?” This is how our theistic, moralistic, and judgmental minds work. Of course, there is nothing wrong with morality, but the point of spiritual practice, according to the vajrayana teachings, is to go beyond all our concepts, including those of morality.
ON REBIRTH. “If you go on telling a Madhyamika philosopher saying that ‘I believe in this life but I do not believe in next life’ then it's almost like you going to a master chef with a boiling water and egg inside, and saying, "I believe the water is boiling and I believe there is a fire but I do not believe that the egg is going to be cooked." It is like that, you understand? You believe in cause and condition but you don't believe in effect. So they will immediately put you into the category of believer of neither [which is one of the extremes]. " London 22. June 1996.
You can search as much as you want
Chandrakirti has no problem if you are searching [for something that is not empty, impermanent or wholly dukkha]. Chandrakirti has a problem if you find something.
No matter which dharma practice you engage in, from ngondro to offering a single candle, always do it with the intention that your practice will benefit all sentient beings. In this context, benefit does not only mean giving practical help, such as offering food or medicine, or feeding people’s emotions, egos and delusions. Here, benefit includes aspiring to be instrumental in the enlightenment of all sentient beings; without such an aspiration, it is easy for dharma practice to become self-serving.
A genuine tantrika
The legendary udumbara flower is said to bloom only once every 3,000 years. Even rarer is the appearance of the Buddha on this planet earth. And rarer even than the appearance of the Buddha is the tantric teaching. Likewise, to see an authentic tantrika and mantrika is extremely rare. Being well-versed in tantric wisdom and well-equipped with tantric substances and outfits does not make an authentic tantrika. A mantrika is someone beyond inhibition, assumption and fear and yet completely at ease with those frantically caught in hope and fear.
We read of such tantrikas during the times of Saraha, Virupa, Nagarjuna, Naropa and Padmasambhava. Those of us fortunate to have encountered Dagchen Rinpoche have actually witnessed such an authentic tantrika in this very lifetime. Yet another extraordinary role model has now passed.
In my deluded view there are hardly any such genuine tantrikas left on this earth. From the depths of my heart I beseech those remaining to live long. May their utter genuineness always make us uneasy and self-conscious as we trot out our endless panoply of excuses and dodgy reasons. And may we constantly hold such great beings in complete awe.
Most of the time we are trying to make the good things last, or we are thinking about replacing them with something even better in the future, or we are sunk in the past, reminiscing about happier times. Ironically, we never truly appreciated the experience for which we are nostalgic because we were too busy clinging to our hopes and fears at the time.
Truth is hard to swallow
Life is nothing more than a continuous stream of sensory illusions, from the obvious ones, like fame and power, to those less easy to discern, like death, nosebleeds and headaches. Tragically, though, most human beings believe in what they see, and so the truth Buddha exposed about the illusory nature of life can be a little hard to swallow.
Millions of people in this world are interested in some version of meditation, or yoga, or one of the many so-called spiritual activities that are now so widely marketed. A closer look at why people engage in these practices reveals an aim that has little to do with liberation from delusion, and everything do to with their desperation to escape busy, unhappy lives, and heartfelt longing for a healthy, stress-free, happy life. All of which are romantic illusions. So, where do we find the roots of these illusions? Mainly in our habitual patterns and their related actions. Of course, no one of sound mind imagines any of us would willingly live an illusion. But we are contrary beings, and even though we are convinced we would shun a life built on self-deception, we continue to maintain a strong grip on the habits that are the cause of countless delusions. (NFH)
Reflections of the moon on a lake
The great Longchenpa said, when the moon rises and when there is a clear lake, even though you may not wish it, the moon is reflected in the lake. Likewise, as long as sentient beings have merit, the image of the Buddha and his teachings and his blessing are reflected, even though you don't search for them. But if the lake is murky and defiled and not clear, even though the moon is shining in the clear sky, the reflection of the moon doesn't exist.
Likewise, even though the compassion of the Buddha is infinite and ever-present, if there is no merit among sentient beings for the Buddhas to reflect, then the chance of communication with the Buddha probably does not exist. However, judging not just from us, but from everything that is going on regarding the activity of the Dharma, I feel that we sentient beings still have a lot of merit.
Sentient beings are like silkworms, create their own traps and die in them. (NFH)
There's two traps: overbelieving what is believable, and underbelieving what is unbelievable.
Vajrayana texts state that for one who seeks enlightenment a guru is more important than all the buddhas of the three times put together. His job is not only to teach students but to lead them. He is our most important companion, our family, husband, wife and beloved child, because only he can bring us to enlightenment.
Sadly, in recent years, the word guru has all but lost its original meaning. The deluded beings of this time are greedy for everything pure and stainless, so they grab at the principle of the guru, spoil it, reject it and then move on to another perfect treasure to lay waste.
It has happened far too often and as a result gurus are now mistrusted in the modern world and often ridiculed in popular culture. Nevertheless, for someone serious about following a spiritual path there is no substitute for being guided by a guru.
We follow a spiritual path because we want to defeat our emotions and attain enlightenment, and to achieve that goal we need discipline, guidance and the courage to confront everything we have spent many lifetimes trying to avoid. This is precisely what a guru provides us with by challenging our preconceived concepts, disrupting our lives and most important of all by denying ego’s every wish.
Therefore, as Jigme Lingpa strongly advised, we should do a great deal of research about a guru before we give him or her carte blanche to torpedo our lives, because we must be able to trust him completely. Unfortunately, very few people these days focus on such details, and this stage of the process is too often overlooked. (NFH)
As it is explained in many of the meditation teachings, first of all you cannot stop thoughts. It is impossible. And stopping thoughts is not our agenda. It is not doable. Even if were do-able it is not necessary, it is useless. Meditation actually is to generate the awareness of the thought. If you are supposed to develop the awareness of the thought, then you have to have the thought to be aware of! So you can’t really get rid of the thought and then try to look at something. (PFTFA2)
Over time I have come to realize that people often associate Buddhism and Buddhists with peace, meditation, and nonviolence. In fact many seem to think that saffron or maroon robes and a peaceful smile are all it takes to be a Buddhist. As a fanatical Buddhist myself, I must take pride in this reputation, particularly the nonviolent aspect of it, which is so rare in this age of war and violence, and especially religious violence. Throughout the history of humankind, religion seems to beget brutality. Even today religious-extremist violence dominates the news. Yet I think I can say with confidence that so far we Buddhists have not disgraced ourselves. Violence has never played a part in propagating Buddhism. However, as a trained Buddhist, I also feel a little discontented when Buddhism is associated with nothing beyond vegetarianism, nonviolence, peace, and meditation. Prince Siddhartha, who sacrificed all the comforts and luxuries of palace life, must have been searching for more than passivity and shrubbery when he set out to discover enlightenment. (WMYNB)
Extracted from the interview of DJKR.
Interviewer- You have ever said you would rather be a prostitute in the next life to enlighten sentient beings. Why do you make such a wish.
DJKR- It didn't come out from my mouth casually.. You know role of a Lama only benefits already converted ones. So easy that's actually comparing to what prostitute can do. Thats it...
When a bodhisattva visited Buddha – it is in the Prajnaparamita Sutra – and the bodhisattva complaint to the Buddha, saying: I feel so sad, I feel so sad about this meaningless life and all of that. And it is almost painful. Then Buddha: this is a noble wealth, you have so much merit that is why you are feeling sad about these things. When you don’t have that merit you will be distracted to all this gadgets and think this is life.
This is what the dharma practitioner needs to understand — that the whole of samsara, or nirvana, is as essenceless or untrue as that film. Until we see this, it will be very difficult for dharma to sink into our minds. We will always be carried away, seduced by the glory and beauty of this world, by all the apparent success and failure. However, once we see, even just for a second, that these appearances are not real, we will gain a certain confidence. This doesn't mean that we have to rush off to Nepal or India and become a monk or nun. We can still keep our jobs, wear a suit and tie and go with our briefcase to the office every day. We can still fall in love, offer our loved one flowers, exchange rings. But somewhere inside there is something telling us that all this is essenceless. (LAC)
Training in discipline purifies wrongdoing and wrong thinking; training in meditation stabilises right view, right motivation and right action; and training in wisdom liberates us from the root of ignorance.
What Makes a Buddha?
Having examined many profound subjects, Vimalakīrti asked two very significant questions. The first was “What makes a buddha?” meaning, what ingredients or components go into making a buddha? It’s a bit like asking “What is the recipe for Korean ‘kimchi’?” And the second question was, “To which family or caste does a buddha belong?”
Today, it’s not easy for us to understand these questions, but back then they were considered extremely relevant. Historically, certain jobs were always given to those born into specific families and social backgrounds. Until very recently, for instance, the highest political and social jobs in England were given almost exclusively to men who had been educated in public schools like Harrow and Eton; and the Prince of Wales is always expected to become the next King of England. The same can also be said for the other end of the social scale – no one is surprised when the son of a cobbler makes excellent shoes. Similarly, the people of Buddha’s time would have expected buddhas to have been born exclusively into specific castes or families.
“What are the components or ingredients that make Śākyamuni Buddha a ‘buddha’?”
Must blood run through a buddha’s veins? Is a mouth necessary? And ears? Is there a special buddha DNA, or a code that gets passed from one generation to another, like the DNA that causes hereditary high cholesterol?
“What is it that has the potential to become a buddha?” ‘Potential’ in the sense that milk has the potential to become yoghurt.
“Is ‘buddha’ just a historical figure?” Meaning, is ‘buddha’ only ever the Buddha we see depicted as statues and on temple walls with a lump on his head and curly hair, who was the son of Śuddhodana and Mahāmāyā?
“What are we referring to when we say ‘buddha’?”
By now, Vimalakīrti was no longer answering Mañjuśrī’s questions, Mañjuśrī was answering Vimalakīrti’s. And how touching and beautiful that Lord Mañjuśrī began referring to Vimalakīrti not as a patron, but as the ‘Son of a Noble Family’.
I wonder if we will ever be able to appreciate this conversation fully?
It’s unbearable for many of us even to contemplate the notion that cleanliness can be found in the midst of filth. Yet cleanliness can only be found in filth. And for those of us who are stuck with the idea that cleanliness is a puritanical state that is entirely independent and separate from filth, emotions and defilements, such a statement is so bewildering as to be virtually inconceivable.
“Son of a Noble Family,” said Mañjuśrī, “Emotions are the ingredients that make a buddha. Ignorance, craving, desire and anger are the buddha family.”
Here, Mañjuśrī offered hope and encouragement by making a mockery of our ideas about clean and dirty. He said that good can only be found in the bad and the ugly. Was he merely giving a politically correct pep talk, or saying things he didn’t mean just to cheer us up? No, he was expressing a hard and piercing truth. For some, it is an unbearable truth, but for others, it is the most encouraging thing we have ever heard.
“If you plant a seed in the sky,” said Mañjuśrī, “It won’t ever grow into a flower. Likewise, a buddha cannot arise from the uncompounded state; buddha – enlightenment – will only arise where there are compounded phenomena.”
So Mañjuśrī is not denigrating compounded phenomena; he is not saying compounded phenomena are unholy, or some kind of stain. What he’s saying is that compounded phenomena are impermanent, but even so, we venerate them. For the philosophically-minded, this is an important point. (VSI)
The Danger of Titles
You are really blessed, that you are not a Tulku or Rinpoche. Actually there is a great master called Tsele Natsok Rangdol. He has a prayer, I saw, there is a really beautiful prayer. One section of the prayer, from the depth of his heart he said: “May I never ever reborn as a Tulku or Rinpoche.” It is really good. I do it every day, really. Because when you suddenly have these Rinpoches or some monasteries or Khenpos or whatever the line is so thin, so thin. Are you really, is your life for the Dharma or the Dharma for life. So thin. And I can almost tell you from my experience it is more from the other way, Dharma for living. (PFTFA2)
Mara’s five arrows
The sutras tell us that Mara (Buddhism’s “devil”) is a tricky character and an expert archer. To avoid straying into the sights of one of his five arrows requires tremendous effort because each one is trained on our most vulnerable spots.
The first of Mara’s arrows is aimed at those who feel great pride in their accomplishments or in their material or spiritual wealth.
The second is aimed at those who are ignorant because they have no idea which activities and attitudes need to be abandoned and which adopted.
The third is directed at those with wrong views, such as not believing in cause, condition and effect.
The fourth is fixed on those whose forgetfulness continually distracts them from mindfulness.
The fifth strikes those distracted by the eight worldly dharmas.
Gurus should not adapt the dharma to the needs of busy, materialistic people who demand a businesslike method for receiving teachings that fits into their lifestyles. Were that to happen, far too much that is crucial to an authentic spiritual path would be lost. (NFH)
By understanding emptiness, you lose interest in all the trappings and beliefs that society builds up and tears down – political systems, science and technology, global economy, free society, the United Nations. You become like an adult who is not so interested in childrens games. (WMYNAB)
A knife becomes sharp as the result of two exhaustions — the exhaustion of the sharpening stone and the exhaustion of the metal. In the same way, enlightenment is the result of the exhaustion of obscurations and the exhaustion of the antidote of the obscurations. Ultimately one must abandon the path to enlightenment. If you still define yourself as a buddhist, you are not a buddha yet.
Some people are fundamentally ignorant of what is going on around them. They may even deliberately decide not to notice the sufferings of others. If you are this kind of person, you do your best to avoid feeling sympathy for anyone, actively encourage stupidity, ignorance and lack of empathy in others, and take pride in being entirely unmoved by the suffering of a turtle or lobster as it is plunged into boiled water for your lunch. You educate yourself to form a thick skin so you feel nothing for anyone, and you socialize with people just like you. You celebrate your hardheartedness and teach your children and friends to be as callous and cold as you are. Even if you own millions, you are unable to bring yourself to toss a penny to a ragged street urchin who has no hope of an education or of even seeing a toy, let alone playing with one. When this kind of person is reborn, it will be as a far more powerful being’s juicy snack. You will no longer have a home or even a postal address, let alone a bank account. If in your previous life you were a hunter, in your next life you will be the hunted. Whenever you are lucky enough to find a handful of food, you will be paranoid about protecting it and live in fear of it being snatched away from you. Buddhists describe this realm as the animal realm. (LID)
Ngondro is More Important than the Main Teaching
If you were to ask me if I have [already] given a Dzogpa Chenpo teaching, yes I have. I have given Dzogpa Chenpo Ngondro, coming from the Longchen Nyingtik tradition of Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa.
[I put it like that] because it looks like every time people say "I have received Dzogpa Chenpo teachings", they are always referring to the pointing out instructions. But that is not necessarily the case. Longchen Nyingtig Ngondro is also a Dzogchen teaching. It is actually more important, because it is the root.
This is what Patrul Rinpoche said [quote in tibetan]:
"In my tradition, ngondro is more important than the main teaching". (WOMPT)
To feel depressed is not always a bad thing
The aim of far too many teachings these days is to make people “feel good,” and even some Buddhist masters are beginning to sound like New Age apostles. Their talks are entirely devoted to validating the manifestation of ego and endorsing the “rightness” of our feelings, neither of which have anything to do with the teachings we find in the pith instructions. So if you are only concerned about feeling good, you are far better off having a full-body massage or listening to some uplifting or life-affirming music than receiving dharma teachings, which were definitely not designed to cheer you up. On the contrary, the dharma was devised specifically to expose your failings and make you feel awful.
Try reading The Words of My Perfect Teacher. If you find it depressing, if Patrul Rinpoche’s disconcerting truths rattle your worldly self-confidence, be happy. It is a sign that at long last you are beginning to understand something about the dharma. And by the way, to feel depressed is not always a bad thing. It is completely understandable for someone to feel depressed and deflated when their most humiliating failing is exposed. Who wouldn’t feel a bit raw in such a situation? But isn’t it better to be painfully aware of a failing rather than utterly oblivious to it? If a flaw in your character remains hidden, how can you do anything about it? So although pith instructions might temporarily depress you, they will also help uproot your shortcomings by dragging them into the open. This is what is meant by the phrase “dharma penetrating your mind,” or, as the great Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye put it, “the practice of dharma bearing fruit,” rather than the so-called good experiences too many of us hope for, such as good dreams, blissful sensations, ecstasy, clairvoyance, or the enhancement of intuition.
Patrul Rinpoche said there is no such thing as a person who has perfected both dharma practice and worldly life, and if we ever meet someone who appears to be good at both, the likelihood is that his or her skills are grounded in worldly values.
We aren’t willing to see things as illusory
It’s understandable that we aren’t willing or able to see these things as illusory. It’s much more ridiculous when we get caught up in extravagances such as high fashion, haute cuisine, celebrity status, and membership in elite clubs.
More than a few people are so spoiled that having a television in every room or two hundred pairs of shoes seems like a necessity. Lusting after a pair of Nikes or a Giorgio Armani suit at a posh boutique goes far beyond the practical survival impulse. People even get into fights over handbags in stores.
The assembled phenomena of packaging and market research are so intricate and calculated that we become suckers for labels, accepting the ridiculous price tags that have no correlation with material value.
The process of relating to this reflection of the inner Buddha is called devotion. As long as there is the stream of thoughts, there is no end to the projection of samsara. Until the end of samsara, there is no end to the path. As long as there is a path, there is devotion. And as long as there is devotion, there is an outer teacher. (TGDB?)
Enlightenment, basically you want to know what is enlightenment. As I said, enlightenment is an absence of paranoia. Okay I will tell you. We have so many obsessions, obsessions. Certain impulse obsessions too. You understand? Obsessions. Obsessions coming from our own habitual tendencies that is coming from past life or obsession taught by our mother, father, grand parents. Or obsession that is taught by the great Confucius master. Obsession that is coming from our culture. All of this. And these obsessions really binds you, make you life limited.
I will give you one example. Maybe you are the very right, very person. Think, I am giving you an example. You know sometimes when we go to bed some people have this obsession that they have to put their shoes in order right next to the bed. Really right in order. Facing to the door not to the bed. They go to sleep, they wonder: “Did I put my shoes right? Maybe not.” You check. You look at the shoes. Yeah it is facing there. Facing the door. It is right in order, it is not upside down. And then you sleep. Half an hour: “Was that my dream or did I really put it.” You get up and check.
I am just giving you are very extreme example but if you think all our life is a bit like that. Our life. There is so much obsession. Like parent’s obsessions that the kids must study this this this this this. Husband’s obsession that wife must do this and that. Wife’s obsession of husband must do this and that. You understand. We have a certain rules we made and expect the other people to perform. That is what we call obsession.
As you practice the Dharma, you practice and practice and practice. One day you kick out your right foot with the shoes. The shoe landed on the shrine, on top of the shrine, I don’t know. Left shoe goes right through the bath room and sink into the toilet. You still sleep, nothing, you don’t care a bit where it went. That is enlightenment. No more obsessions, no more clinging. There is a short form of that, in America we call it ccl. Couldn’t care less. You have to reach to that. Ccl is the American version of enlightenment. Couldn’t care less. But then again it is accompanied with the compassion so. Not only you have ccl, you actually want other people to have ccl. That is important. (TLP)
The vast majority of us perform two activities almost instinctively; we like to throw out rubbish and love collecting goodies. This universal habitual pattern can be usefully employed as a format on the spiritual path.
Every one of us has been hurt by people we have cared for, and although we may insist we have forgotten all about it, we rarely have. To help ease any lingering pain, visualise them in the place of honour, and as you arouse bodhichitta, wish them everything that is good.
If thinking about them continues to be painful, it is a sign that you have not let go of feeling they have wronged you. Try not to focus on it. Instead, admit to yourself that you are still holding on to your pain.
Then concentrate on wishing them every happiness and long to take all their sufferings on yourself. And do bear in mind that for those who are really serious about practising the dharma, difficult relationships provide the most fertile ground for practice.
When we talk about the daringness we are not talking about daringness of like taking off your cloth and stuff like that. Fundamentally daringness to really face the nonduality... this is how we say it in Tibetan. You know, daringness, courage to actually face and understand and conceive the idea of nonduality or emptiness. Many of us here we have heard many times the teachings on emptiness. You know there is a story, I think in the ... Manjushri Sutra, the manifestations of Manjushri Sutra, that once Buddha taught shunyata and five hundred Arhats they died with heart attack. They understood but they couldn’t accept it, This actually tells us something. We have received so many emptiness teachings, we haven’t had even close to heart attack. So this actually means two things. Either you have understood nothing or you already have some kind of realization. Much more than the Arhats. So the real daringness has got to do with facing the nonduality. (TT)
Try sitting alone in a house and doing absolutely nothing. Sooner or later your hands will reach for the remote control or the newspaper. We need to be occupied. We need to be busy. If we are not busy, we feel insecure.
But there is something very strange in all this. The ego searches constantly for distraction, and then the distraction itself becomes a problem. Instead of helping us to feel reassured, it actually increases our insecurity. We get obsessed with the distraction and it develops into another habit. Once it becomes a habit, it is difficult to get rid of. So in order to get rid of this new habit, we have to adopt yet another habit. This is how things go on and on.
What are the signs of progress in our practice? What can we expect? Should we wait for a signal from the guru—or an award? According to Karma Chagme Rinpoche, we will have no experiences, no special dreams, no pure visions. The ‘king of all signs,’ also known as the ‘sign of no-sign,’ which was highly prized by the Kagyupa masters of the past, is when renunciation mind, sadness and devotion blaze in your mind. The signs to be cherished most include an escalating appetite for dharma practice; noticing the futility of everything you do; ever-increasing conflicts as a result of old habits; and while you may still have the urge to party with your friends, to be plagued by the unwelcome sense that the whole thing is a useless waste of time. (NFH)
In this age of materialism, people suffer from alienation and lack of purpose, and many people are seeking for something more. When there is so much seeking, there is a danger that a path specially designed to relieve temporal pain might come to overshadow the real path that uproots suffering, the true path to enlightenment. Interest in dharma is scarce to begin with, and even then, such interest is very fickle. And if we were to encounter a path that did not have the view, we would become even more disillusioned. This would be very sad, because there is genuine seeking. Without the view, the whole purpose of Buddhism is lost. It is then no longer Buddhism – a path to enlightenment – but merely a method for temporal healing. So, even for the sake of insurance, at least some of us should pay some attention to establishing the view. (IMW)
This [shaved head] is not like a burka! A cultural artifact. This is mind training.
I remember something His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse once told me. I used to be very wild, and sometimes people would report my actions to him in hope that he would scold me and discipline me. But instead, he would tell me who it was who told on me and would make a game of it. He used to say, "Don’t worry. You must remember that whenever there is one person out there who doesn’t like you or who thinks you are crazy, there will be a hundred people who are going to like you. And similarly, whenever there is one person who likes you, you shouldn’t get too excited about it, because there will be a hundred people who can’t stand you." So liking and disliking are completely irrelevant. (WCWD)
Buddhism is getting hijacked by things like non-violence, vegetarianism, mindfulness... these are the 'terrorists' that hijack Buddhism. (Teachings in Mexico City, 2016)
Politics, activism, liberal agendas, mixing things up, cherry picking the teachings, this way Buddhism is becoming fake like Mexican food in the US.
It is not violence only that can destroy Buddhism: diluting it is also destructive.
We talk about how samsara is useless, how samsara is suffering, all of that. But that's not the real reason for renunciation. The real renunciation of samsara is the recognizing that samsara is shunyata, renunciation occurs because it doesn't exist.
There is no ignorance, there is also no end of ignorance, there is no death, there is no end of death, there is no Four Noble Truths, this is said by the same guy who taught the Four Noble Truths. You need to know this... this is the brilliance of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Siddhartha was right to think that teaching would be no easy task. In a world that is driven by greed, pride, and materialism, even teaching basic principles such as love, compassion, and philanthropy is very difficult, let alone the ultimate truth of emptiness. We are stuck with our short-term thinking and bound by practicality. For us, something must be tangible and immediately useful in order to be worth our investment of time and energy. By those criteria, emptiness as defined by Buddha seems completely useless. We might think, What is the benefit of contemplating the impermanence and emptiness of the phenomenal world? How can emptiness be profitable? With our limited rationale, we have a set definition of what makes sense and what is meaningful—and emptiness goes beyond that limit. It is as if the idea of “emptiness” cannot fit inside our heads. This is because the human mind operates on one inadequate system of logic even though there are countless other systems of logic available to us. We operate as if thousands of years of history have preceded this moment, and if someone were to tell us that the entirety of human evolution took place in the duration of a sip of coffee going down the throat, we would not be able to comprehend. (WMYNAB)
The bodhisattva's aspiration is infinite. And that includes my own aspirations... mainly to become a black woman Republican American president.
Bodhisattva’s method is infinite. Nothing can, you cannot judge. Nothing. Bodhisattva’s aspiration – we were talking about the aspiration yesterday – it’s infinite. I was told by my gurus, and it has to be like that and should be like that. It gives you the freedom.
I myself when I am in a sober mood, I aspire. My aspiration is to become, I don't know, it’s doesn’t matter which order, but I want to become, you know, Premier of China, President of the United States. That’s what I aspire a lot.
I have actually offered a hundred thousand butter lamps in Bodhgaya - aspiration is mainly to become a black woman Republican American president. So please if you are writing a will or something in the future, tell your children to, if in the future, like two or three generations later, if there is a woman, black woman, running for president – vote for her.
And also, also the president of the, eh, eh, the National Rifle Association – is it? Very much and, and there’s also the Chinese premier. I mean, I’m even considering the prime minister of Brazil, it’s not a bad idea – stuff like that. I'm just sharing you this because I think the clear activity, clarity of the aspiration should be infinite.
Of course, you can always settle with kind of self, selfish-oriented kind of not too courageous, but comfort, comfort-oriented aspiration like to be reborn as Bill Gates’ pet dog. I'm sure you will have, I don’t know, every day two sausages, but that could be not that productive. But who knows? Maybe other dogs can get some connection. (PFTFA)
…The second bodhisattva’s management technique is ‘snyan par smra ba’ - to say nice things — Oh, you look beautiful; your beard is curly, I don’t know, whatever it suits. Not to be harsh – and that’s a big one. And, if somebody praises you, then as a bodhisattva, instead of just going bananas with this praise, a bodhisattva must think — Wow, what a person! …Let’s say somebody praises with a certain quality that you have. Then the bodhisattva must think: how great this person is. That I have this quality or not, it doesn’t matter, but this person actually appreciates such a great quality! (TWB)
Q: If we could download information into our head, what would you like to download into your head?
Actually, not so much. Because I like the state of meditation. I’ve reached to a point where I think information is useless. Maybe it’s useful to communicate with people, but communication is very temporary. Actually, more than download, I want to put many of my information in the trash. It will be really good if it is totally spacious. I think my hard drive will run faster then. (YT)
I confess that, because of my own delusion, I am not able to see the tulkus of my gurus—Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the Sixteenth Karmapa, and Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche—in the same way I saw my living, breathing gurus. All I can do is try to project the aura of the Sixteenth Karmapa onto his yangsi. Likewise, I can project the elegance of the previous Dudjom, or the all-encompassing quality of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, onto Khyentse Yangsi. But I cannot feel it. Even a cough of the previous Dudjom would make me shudder. The current yangsi could shout at the top of his voice, and I wouldn’t twitch. I used to fastidiously check my outfit before entering the Sixteenth Karmapa’s chambers, but now I only pretend to show concern. When I was young, if I went to Dudjom Rinpoche with a comic book in my bag, I would feel his X-ray gaze, but now I walk around with much worse things in my bag and am not worried. (TGDB?)
If we have ambitions, we have fixations toward whatever we are aiming for—even if our aim is enlightenment. Then there is no meditation because we are thinking about it, we are craving for it, we are fantasizing about it, imagining things. That is not meditation.
This is why a very, very important characteristic of shamatha meditation is to let go of any goal and simply sit for the sake of sitting. Here we breathe in and out and we just watch that. Nothing else. It doesn't matter if we get enlightenment or not, or if our friends gets enlightened faster than us. Who cares? We are just breathing. We just sit straight and watch the breath in and out. Nothing else.
We let go of obsessions toward aims and ambitions. This is a very important aspect. This includes even the perfection of the shamatha meditation, trying to do a perfect shamatha meditation. Even that we should get rid of. Just sit.
This is what the dharma practitioner needs to understand — that the whole of samsara, or nirvana, is as essenceless or untrue as that film. Until we see this, it will be very difficult for dharma to sink into our minds. We will always be carried away, seduced by the glory and beauty of this world, by all the apparent success and failure. However, once we see, even just for a second, that these appearances are not real, we will gain a certain confidence. This doesn't mean that we have to rush off to Nepal or India and become a monk or nun. We can still keep our jobs, wear a suit and tie and go with our briefcase to the office every day. We can still fall in love, offer our loved one flowers, exchange rings. But somewhere inside there is something telling us that all this is essenceless.
When the self is full of pride, it manifests in countless ways—narrow-mindedness, racism, fragility, fear of rejection, fear of getting hurt, insensitivity, to name a few.
Out of masculine pride, men have stifled the energy and contributions of over half the human race—women. During courtship, each side lets pride get in the way, constantly evaluating whether the other person is good enough for them or whether they are good enough for the other person.
Proud families spend fortunes on a one-day wedding ceremony for a marriage that may or may not last, while on the same day, in the same village, people are dying of starvation.
A tourist makes a show of giving a ten-dollar tip to the doorman for pushing a revolving door, and the next minute he’s bargaining for a five-dollar T-shirt from a vendor who is trying to support her baby and family.
As a Buddhist, you have been taught that aggression is generally considered to be a negative emotion. Therefore your immediate reaction to any aggressive tendency or thought that arises in your mind will be to reject it. And you reject it because you are in love with your “self,” which makes you an egoist. As an egoist, you do not want aggressive feelings or jealousy or any of the other negative emotions to spoil your chances of becoming renowned as a “good” Buddhist. Yet according to the greater view offered by the bodhisattvayana, to reject your aggression is a weakness. To reject the bad and only accept the good shows that you are still stained by the clinging to self that we call “ego.” Instead, when a bodhisattvayana practitioner notices his/her aggressive emotions, he/she should think, “Aggression is really bad! But I am not the only one who suffers from it—all sentient beings do! So, may I take on the aggression, jealousy and pride of all sentient beings. From a relative point of view, what happens when you take on the “pens when you take on the suffering of others in this way? Fundamentally, you go against the wishes of your ego. So, if your ego wants to be the holiest and most sublime of all beings so it can boast it has no desire or jealousy, this is exactly the practice you need to do to oppose and resist it. By continually applying it, the ego becomes smaller and smaller until finally it has nowhere to live. (NFH)
If at the time of Gendun Chopel, the Tibetan people and the Tibetan government had lent even half an ear to him and acted accordingly, I have no doubt that Tibet and the Tibetan people would be in a different position than they are today. A better one. It is quite amazing that out of Tibet, which is usually considered a primitive, orthodox, forbidden land, someone like Gendun Chopel emerged. His remarkable poetry is a fitting legacy of this unique figure in modern Tibetan history.
You make your own discipline such as, “I will not go to Starbucks on Wednesdays.” Really, if you took that kind of vow, something as simple as this, in the future the ratio of visits to your shrink will be definitely reduced.
We tend only to believe what we can see, and what we see is always filtered by our personal perception. Take the example of a man who is already extremely paranoid about imaginary problems and firmly believes he has ghostly tenants living in his cupboard. To tell such a person that the ghosts are a figment of his imagination will not help him at all because he is quite certain that ghosts exist. A far less time-consuming and more efficient approach would be to agree skillfully that in a way his paranoid delusion is real, and then offer a method for dispelling that delusion — such as calling in the Ghostbusters! (NFH)
If we are serious about achieving enlightenment, we need the strength to renounce the things that are a big deal for us, and we need a great deal of courage to step onto the path alone. Those who do not pursue praise and gain, those who do not shun criticism and loss, may be stigmatized as abnormal or even insane. When observed from an ordinary point of view, enlightened beings may seem insane because they don’t negotiate, they cannot be lured or swayed by material gain, they don’t get bored, they don’t look for thrills, they have no face to lose, they do not conform to rules of etiquette, they never employ hypocrisy for personal gain, they never do things to impress people, and they don’t display their talents and powers just for the sake of it. But if it benefits others, these saints will do anything necessary, from having perfect table manners to leading a Fortune 500 company. In 2,500 years of Buddhist history there have probably been countless enlightened beings who were never identified or who were banished for being insane. (WMYNAB)
...Vajrayana students who were born and brought up in the modern world often have difficulties with visualization practice. Part of the problem, I think, is that Tibetan teachers like myself assume all sentient beings process things the same way Tibetans do. We teach you to picture the Buddha the way he is traditionally depicted in Tibet, adorned with ornaments that are valued by Tibetans and convey specific meanings to them. But becoming a perfect Tibetan iconographer is not the point of visualization practice.
The main purpose of visualization practice is to purify our ordinary, impure perception of the phenomenal world by developing “pure perception.” Unfortunately, though, pure perception is yet another notion that tends to be misunderstood. Students often try to re-create a photographic image of a Tibetan painting in their mind, with two-dimensional deities who never blink, surrounded by clouds frozen in space, and with consorts who look like grown-up babies. Practicing this erroneous version of visualization instills in you a far worse form of perception than the one you were born with, and in the process the whole point of pure perception is destroyed.
What, then, is really meant by the terms pure perception and impure perception? “Impure” does not mean that the object of our visualization is covered with dirt or is polluted or defiled in any way; the impurity isn’t “out there.” “Impure,” in this context, means that the problem is “in here”—that is, we look at the world through emotional filters that we label “desire,” “jealousy,” “pride,” “ignorance,” and “aggression.” Everything we perceive is colored by myriad variations of these five emotions. For example, imagine you go to a party, and as you glance at someone you find attractive, your passion filter quickly clicks into place and you immediately label that person “desirable.” If someone else gets in the way, your aggression filter is activated and you label this other person “hideous.” As the evening wears on, other people provoke your insecurities, causing you to sit in judgment of them, make comparisons, defend your choices, and bolster your personal pride by denigrating others—all of which is triggered by the filter of profound ignorance. And the list goes on and on... (PCV)
In the same way babies are generally given more than one toy to play with, it’s a good idea for practitioners not to limit themselves to just one method. One day, if you feel the shravakayana teachings might help clarify the benefits of renunciation, by all means apply them. If tomorrow, contemplating the illusory nature of phenomena is more inspiring because it helps you appreciate that you have almost nothing to renounce, don’t hesitate to apply that view. Be skillful and practice whichever method works for you at this very moment. And don’t restrict yourself, because as a beginner it is so important for you to develop a taste for practice. Once you find the one or two practices that work best, concentrate on them. It’s a bit like moving to the city. At first you wander all over the place, trying the different routes between your home and your job, until eventually you find the most convenient way, and then stick to it. (NFH)
Protection from samsara and Nirvana
In fact, bluntly speaking, when a Mahayana Bodhisattva is taking refuge, not like all the other practitioners, who will take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to protect them from samsara only. Mahayana Bodhisattvas they take refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to protect them from both, samsara and nirvana.
It is vital to understand that however positive this worldly life, or even a small part of it, may appear to be, ultimately it will fail because absolutely nothing genuinely works in samsara.
If you're practising Dharma, you practise it for enlightenment. Not for rights, not for freedom, not for justice, not for healing, not for getting better in a worldly way.
Your motivation is most important. Motivation will determine your path. You should not listen to this teaching even for the sake of your enlightenment. Who cares about your enlightenment, one's own enlightenment. That is the Mahayana attitude. I don't care about I get enlightenment or not, I want everyone to be enlightened – that is your motivation.
You should not be worried about whether you are practicing Dharma OK, that you are sitting properly or not, you are getting closer to the enlightenment or not – those are very lesser attitude, coward attitude, you should try to avoid that. If you motivation is grand, then you will hear it in a grand way.
One thing you should not forget is, practice, really, practicing – this is very important, please write it down somewhere or tattoo it on your stomach or something like that. The point of buddhism, the eventual point of buddhism is not to make good karma. Okay, one line. That has to be somewhere on your chest or something. Tattoo it. The point of Buddhism is not to create good karma. The point of buddhism is to transcend karma. So important that we know this. Actually don’t tattoo please.
Deluded, ignorant beings like you and me are subject to karma and are therefore victims of karmic debt. Everything that happens to us in life and death – our successes, failures, even the manner of our death – happens as a result of our karmic debts. Basically, causes and conditions dictate everything we do. So one of the activities we could initiate on behalf of a dead loved one is a karmic debt-clearing ritual.What is ‘karmic debt’? On paper, you own a flat, a car, wardrobes full of clothes and expensive accessories. Yet, if everything you own was acquired with borrowed money, technically, all your worldly goods belong to the bank. Karmic debt works in pretty much the same way. Everything we are, our situation in life, our health, our wealth and even our appearance is based on countless lifetimes of interaction with others. The Buddhist teachings tell us that we are therefore karmically indebted to absolutely everyone. Every single sentient being has, at one time, been our father, mother, child,maid, driver, the horse or donkey we have ridden, our best friend and our worst enemy.As you read this book, you could be sitting on a spot that belongs to a ghost. Did you ask the ghost’s permission to sit there? We build houses without giving a second thought to the many animals that will be turned out of their homes as a result. We owe an unrepayable debt to our teachers, nurses, doctors, leaders and countries, and to our police forces for keeping us safe and bringing those who steal from and hurt us to justice. Some people don’t pay taxes on principle, yet they benefit from the security their country provides to live comfortably and securely. If you are one of those people, you owe your country’s social system far more than those who participate by paying their taxes. All these karmic debts are the reason we experience sickness, family feuds and failure. And because we are all burdened with a colossal amount of karmic debt, we have almost no control over what we do, think, have, and how we live. Today you may be healthy, bright and energetic, but in a split second, a stupid accident could wipe out all your health and energy for good.Is there an antidote to karmic debt? Yes. A general antidote that is also very effective, is to create good karma. There is no end of ways for creating and accumulating good karma, from donating a penny to a world ecology programme to volunteering to teach maths to child prostitutes in Cambodia. But according to the Buddhist teachings, the best remedy for karmic debt is to practise the Dharma. Take refuge, make the bodhisattva vow and practise bodhichitta. You could also do tonglen practice: as you breathe out, offer everything that is good to others, and as you breathe in, hoover up everything that is bad (page 195). And always dedicate the merit you accumulate towards the enlightenment of others... (LID)
The Buddha taught the Shunyata which is beyond our concession. We cannot verbalize, we cannot fathom, we cannot imagine this Shunyata that is unspeakable, unthinkable, unlistenable. It is the most profound teaching of the Buddha.
But the most amazing thing about Buddha and His teaching is, even though Shunyata is beyond our conception, beyond our thoughts and all that, not a single relative part is rejected. In fact everything, like offering incense, offering flowers, circumambulation, etc. all of these fits in very well with the great view of Shunyata, they are in complete harmony.
This is probably one of the biggest wealth of Buddha Dharma. I think many philosophical system always end holding unto one extreme, either ultimate extreme or relative extreme.
What makes a path a smooth path or a rough path depends on how skilled you are in playing games with doubt and belief.
Louise may think of herself as “Louise,” but she would never describe herself as a “visualization of Louise,” even though that is precisely what she is. In fact, every one of us is a visualization of ourselves. (PCV)
What makes the Buddhist path so special is that it looks dualistic, but it has that ability to liberate you from the bondage of dualism. It is a deliberate and conscious knot that is consciously and deliberately designed to undo itself. All the skillful means and methods of the Buddhadharma are like a thorn that we use to take out another thorn in our hand. The purpose of renunciation mind, compassion, the recitation of mantras, and contemplation on the breath is to dig out dualism. These practices will dismantle the puzzle of dualism. They speak the language of the nondual and have the flavor of the nondual. For example, compassion is definitely dualistic, but with heavy investment, it leads you to nonduality. (TGDB?)
The Path of Uselessness
This is very important before you take refuge, you have to come to a conclusion. And what does that mean? We don’t have much time to talk about this but if you ask me what is the real, what’s the real meaning of being spiritual or practicing a spiritual path? What is the purpose of following a spiritual path?
I don’t know other spiritual path but in Buddhism, if you are asking me for Buddhism, according to the Buddhadharma, then to take refuge to a spiritual path actually means from the worldly point of view, to take refuge to path of uselessness. That’s so important to accept.
You have to really be brave and be ready to be useless, at least for three minutes(meditation) a day. If you don’t have that, then your feet is, one is on the materialistic world and one is on the spiritual world. You will not walk.
You will not manage to do your worldly, materialistic path properly, because you are thinking about some sort of spiritual path which will only frustrate you and make you feel guilty, you know, force you, you go completely behind while everybody is getting promotion and getting good job and all of that. I am talking from the very highest level.
Spiritually you can’t also do properly because you are sort of attached to this worldly life. This is a challenge. We can discuss about this later but this needs to be sorted out first.
[Q]: I did not understand the link between non-duality and compassion, how non-duality comes about after compassion.
[A]: First, you dream that you have a fatal disease, although you do not yet realise that it is a dream. But as a greater being, you understand and have compassion towards your fellow dreamers. Then suddenly you realise you are dreaming, and you understand non-duality.But because you know that other people do not know this, you also want them to know that this is a dream. This is bodhicitta. It is that simple. (TMM)
I will repeat that mindfulness, in other words ‘awareness,’ is our practice. We are ignorant beings, and as such require constant reminders about the importance of making the effort to land in this awareness. Therefore all our guru’s activities—from when he yawns or coughs, to when he appears or disappears—are his way of reminding us to come back, again and again, to mindfulness. And as long as we are mindful and aware, no one practice is better than another. (MPT)
If we are missing nonduality, our every act will lead to disappointment. How far do you go if you are a therapist trying to help an alcoholic or drug addict? If this person has somehow decided to become a drug addict for the next five thousand lifetimes, you, as a bodhisattva, must have the determination to be reborn wherever they are going to be reborn. You might, for instance, aspire to be reborn at the right time and place to be nearby him or her. Say for example, you are a bodhisattva and have been trying to help this drug addict for over two thousand lifetimes. Now, somewhere in an obscure place, their 2,042nd rebirth is going to happen. Although you need to appear for only half a day, in order to do that you actually have to be reborn there. It is almost a waste of a complete whole life, to be reborn there just to do something that will take only half an hour, or half a day, but as a bodhisattva you must do it. That is what we call the strength and quality of relative compassion.
Now we come to the real quintessence of bodhichitta. Why does a bodhisattva have this degree of compassion? Why don’t they give up? What is the real basis of their confidence? The bodhisattva realises that the notion of “drug addict,” “problem,” “healing,” and “being healed” are all in their own mind. The bodhisattva knows that none of this exists “out there” somewhere, externally and truly. Based on this wisdom, the bodhisattva can develop compassion.
This understanding can really help. My own experience is like being a firefly in front of the sun. Even so, when I try to help people and things don’t work according to plan, I say to myself, “How can I get frustrated?” In the first place, I myself have set up a certain goal based on my own interpretation. In helping a person, I imagine that he or she should reach a certain level, but this is my own idea. After becoming obsessed with the idea of success, when the person is not there, I might lose hope and confidence in this person. Sometimes we do realise that it is all our own projection, but most of the time we don’t. Instead, we think: “This is how it should be. This is real success!” We don’t realise that it is all our own interpretation. This is where we go blind. When you are helping, if you know that your so-called “help,” “success,” and “failure” are all in your own mind, you won’t get worn out. Because you realise that it is all your mind’s doing, you won’t get tired. This is a very general and somewhat course example of ultimate bodhichitta. If you have this understanding, you have a complete picture of bodhichitta.
To reiterate, ultimate bodhichitta is an understanding of emptiness. Only when this is included is there a complete picture of bodhichitta. When we talk about bodhichitta, usually we make reference to something simple, such as a kind, compassionate heart, but that’s not all. This is something many people have. It does not necessarily make you a bodhisattva. Of course this is not to deny that there are very kind and compassionate people. There are people who may even sacrifice their lives for others, but still they may not be bodhisattvas. In fact, they are in danger of acting out their obsession and could end of being victimised by their goal-oriented mind. Being too obsessed with a goal can produce a lot of side effects, such as thinking, “This is how it should work!” With this approach, a bodhisattva can lose hope and determination when things do not work out; they may even stop being a bodhisattva. Having said this, a bodhisattva should not just do things aimlessly. (ALNPP)
Student: Rinpoche can you give us some tips on how to be more useless in every day life.
That’s a good question, actually. We can always begin with what Chögyam Trunpga Rinpoche said: Developing the genuine heart of sadness. You know, I think that’s good. Genuine heart of sadness. Like doing all these things what we do, and really knowing that this is just such a game. This a game I have to play, because I am conditioned to play. I think that will bring you very close. I think this "genuine heart of sadness" is good. Because genuine heart of sadness is very much to do with awareness of, this awareness that things that we think are so useful are actually useless. We don’t know this enough. We may know it intellectually but we don’t know it enough. And really, you will experience this the moment you are going into a third class train in India. Specially when you are running out of the sanitizer, sanitizing what, handkerchief. After a while, all these people they touch here, then they... But if you live long enough there then after a while you have to give up these things. You can’t do, you have to suddenly surrender. Goal, aim, plan, schedules, friends. But unfortunately we do still have lot of challenges so. And they are things like telephone bills, grocery bills, police, tax office, what you call it, revenue office. Those things. But once you reach to a certain level, you will reach to a level where those things will not bother you. Then people will begin to think that you have gone off. But then if you have seen the value of uselessness you will not be bothered. "So what, they think I have gone off." You will be completely free. That is what those sadhus must be doing. I really admire those sadhus in India. At the train station, nothing, they have no plans. Many of them, "where are you going tomorrow?" "I am going to Varanasi." And the day after tomorrow? They look at you like this... "What do you mean? Why do you ask about day after tomorrow?" That’s good. But the problem is this modern world doesn’t allow us to do this, isn’t it. In one way. But on the other, I think so, I think we can. There is still a –- this is beauty of the spiritual path as much the challenge is growing the method to overcome that also grows. Of course. In your case I would say, to become the next opposition leader of Australian parliament is being useless and really aspiring to become an useless person. No because uselessness needs to be interpreted that way. Really. (TIB)
Philosophies or religions might say, “Things are illusion, the world is maya, illusion,” but there are always one or two items left behind that are regarded as truly existent: God, cosmic energy, whatever. In Buddhism, this is not the case. Everything in samsara and nirvana—from the Buddha’s head to a piece of bread—everything is emptiness. There is nothing that is not included in ultimate truth.
VSI - Vimalakirti Sutra Introduction
NFH - Not for Happiness.
LAC - Life as Cinema (essay)
WMYNAB - What Makes you (Not) a Buddhist
TGDB? - The Guru Drinks Bourbon?
TLP - The Three Levels of Perception, Sakya Tenphel Ling, Singapore 2003
PFTFA - Parting from the Four Attachments, (Seattle, 2011)
PFTFA2 - Parting from the Four Attachments, (Nepal, 2009)
WOMPT - Teachings on “Words of My Perfect Teacher” Taiwan, 18-21 February 2011
WOMPTSF - Teachings on “Words of My Perfect Teacher” , San Francisco 1999
TT - Teachings on Tara, Deer Park 2010
TWB - Teachings on “The Way of the Bodhisattva (Parts 1-5) - India 2008-2013
WCWD - What Changes, What Doesn't: An Interview With Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
PCV - Pure, Clear and Vibrant
YT - Chinese web TV program ‘Yi's Time’ two part interview with DJKR
DBSB - The Distortions We Bring To The Study of Buddhism
GT&RC - Green Tomato & Red Chili (Berlin, 2013)
TS - Tortoise Steps
TMM - Teachings on the Madhyamakavatara
MPT - Message on the passing of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
ALNPP - Advice on the Longchen Nyingtik Preliminary Practices
IMW - Introduction to the Middle Way - Chandrakirti's Madhyamakavatara
TIB - Teaching in Brighton, November 2010
LNNPM - Longchen Nyingthig Ngondro Practice Manual
LID - Living is Dying