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Home > Buddhism > Quotes > Quotes by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

Quotes by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche

In general, people are prone to transfer to Dharma the attitudes of their day-to-day worldly habits. In the West a lot of thought and effort have gone into making life easy — push a button and things go on, push another and they go off. Things are made so that they are ready to function immediately. So people approach Dharma as if it, too, should be something easy, something similar to manipulating a material object. They approach Dharma with their habitual speediness, grafting onto it their attitudes toward the material world. Dharma has nothing to do with one's attitudes toward the material world. Dharma has to do with working with one's mind and so requires a completely different attitude. If one takes a speedy approach to Dharma, one simply creates a lot of problems, but if one is open and relaxed about it, things become much easier. (EBT)


The wish to understand the true nature of mind by relying on technology is due to the fault of not having awakened one’s Buddha nature, and because of that, the absolute and relative nature of one’s uncompounded mind just as it is cannot be recognized even slightly, which is the reason for relying only on the compounded gross material substance of technology. While examining the qualities of one’s own and others’ practice by bringing together a machine and the one who uses the machine, if any special conception arises about its being good, bad, high, or low, it will only be a fragmented, deluded interdependent conception that momentarily appears, and not nonconceptual enlightened body and wisdom, which are inconceivable. It will just be like children blowing bubbles in the air and trying to catch these rainbow-colored bubbles with their hands. As Santideva says about the dream of a barren woman: For example, a barren woman dreams her son is dead. When she awakens, she thinks that she has no son. That conception of not having a son comes from the conception of having a son. So, both of these conceptions are obstacles and also delusion.


If we are smiling, this doesn’t mean we are kind; it is fear. (GG)


Rinpoche, would you like to be powerful?

I would like to be powerful if I could have absolute trust in wisdom mind, which is never overcome by ordinary spiritual or technical power. This means I would constantly practice with bad and good circumstances. When bad circumstances such as poverty, sickness, suffering, bad reputation, or insult arose, I would see that poverty came from stinginess, sickness and suffering from violence toward others, bad reputation from jealousy, and insults from conceit. And I would not want to blame others for these circumstances, but rather would realize that they arose from previous karma and that they are just illusions created by my dualistic mind. I would acknowledge their karmic cause and try to purify them through skillful means. When good circumstances arose, such as wealth, health, good reputation, and praise, I would see my wealth to have come from previous generosity, my health from love and kindness toward other beings, and my good reputation from praise toward others. As these good circumstances arose, I would dedicate them for the benefit of all sentient beings, and, once more recognizing them to be illusions from my dualistic mind, I would try not to make them real by grasping or boasting about them. If I were to examine the origin of all these bad or good phenomena, I would discover that they were created by dualistic mind. I would discover that bad or good circumstances appear to be real only in relative truth, and that the difference between them is just like that between black and white clouds; though their essence is the same, they appear to have different aspects. I would see that the objects and subjects of my bad and good experiences are just temporary and illusory, disappearing into selfless awareness as black and white clouds disappear into the sky. Then bad circumstances would not disturb me because I would have confidence through the recognition of my own selfless mind. So, I would no longer create my own suffering by grasping at or complaining about them. In that way, there would no longer be dependence on or influence by bad or good objects. Thus, my facial expression would be stable and pure, not rapidly changing like a coward's face; my speech would always be beneficial, smooth, and true, rather than loose and senselessly blurting like that of a delirious person; and my mind would be deep, clean, and unfathomable like the ocean, rather than shallow and scatterbrained. And since no one would know what is happening in it, no one could influence it and it would always remain pure. But I'm afraid that if bad or good circumstances arose before I managed to attain wisdom mind power, my remembering mind, never being on time, would miss the target. I'm afraid that should I achieve power when worldly opportunity arose, I would use it stupidly over others for my own benefit. And I'm afraid that when my impermanent worldly power was finally exhausted, those whom I had oppressed would take revenge. If that happened, I would become so pathetic and my suffering would be so great that even if I ate delicious food, there would be no taste, and if I slept in a comfortable bed, there would be no sleep. So, I'd better try to stay in ordinary mind, rather than use worldly ego power or try to achieve egoless wisdom power. (GG)


I would like to be a disciple without being one, without hope of learning. I would like to find through my good karma, auspicious dreams, searching, or through friends, an intelligent and expert, powerful wisdom teacher to show me the truly correct path until the final result. It does not matter if he teaches in a hierarchical style, if he is a gypsy, a beautiful or terrible lady, a monk or nun, a god or demon, a layman or holy man, a janitor or craftsman. And as I would spend more time with this teacher, my actions, seeing, hearing, and thinking would automatically benefit myself and other beings as they would turn into practice. I would become more kind, profound, clear, and trustful. (GG)


For those of you who want to attain enlightenment, do not study many teachings. Only study one. What is it? It is great compassion. Whoever has great compassion has all Buddha’s qualities in his hand. (CWN)


Suffering in hopefullness is the eternalist.
Suffering in hopelessness is the nihilist.
Beyond both hopefulness and hopelessness is the Buddhist. (MD)


If we are nihilists, we prefer to remain in our habit of general, nihilist agreement because it is familiar. Then, after the individual, tangible, karmic energy of our body is exhausted, we still retain the personal phenomena of the habit of general phenomena. Therefore, we are reborn again and again with the same habit of general phenomena due to the force of the karmic habit of our own personal reflections.
We may think it is impossible to release ourselves from the heavy habit of general phenomena and to create the lighter habit of the pure, personal phenomena of practice. It may seem that no matter how much we try, we still have dualistic mind’s subject and object that cause habit. Without keeping this previous habit which discourages us from practice, we must truly have faith that Buddha nature is within our own mind.

We must remember that the Buddhas come at all times to guide us toward enlightenment, and that they are the reflected appearance of our own Buddha nature. We must know that the Buddhas are continuously teaching us according to our own individual faculties.

When we are developing our phenomena of Buddhas according to the path of practice, there still may seem to be subject and object appearing as the Buddhas and we who follow them. However, we are only using subject and object within practice in order to transcend them.

This is entirely different from being caught between saṃsāra’s subject and object, which always increases suffering. We are joining our mind’s pure reflections to the self-originating maṇḍala of enlightened beings, which always increases wisdom qualities. (WS)


Desire for what seems to be a positive object, like a comforting friend, may temporarily bring pleasure, but it always ultimately brings suffering and causes karma again. This desire only creates ordinary, heavy habit since there is nothing lasting and beneficial about joining with ordinary friends in an ordinary way.

Instead of grasping toward others, we can think of and pray with faith toward Buddhas as our objects of comfort.

This creates light, noble habit which purifies our obscurations, even though momentarily we may not be able to see Buddhas due to our previous nihilist habit. Since Buddhas are the manifestation of primordial, unobstructed wisdom mind, their nature is unobstructed compassion, which always connects with us and never causes suffering or karma.

With practice, we can subdue the conceptions of ordinary negative subject and object with the interdisplay of positive subject and object, which transforms into inconceivable, undeluded self-manifestations of Buddhas.

If we want to be released from the trap of our heavy personal and general phenomena and from the circle of our nihilist delusion, we must follow Buddhas’ teachings and try to transform our habit of delusion into undistorted awareness.

Until we have confidence in our own undistorted wisdom mind, we must continuously have faith in the Triple Gems and practice. In order to release our mind from the habit of heavy, general phenomena, we must try to develop and increase the habit of the light, personal phenomena of wisdom deity until the habit of all general and personal phenomena has been completely exhausted into the habitless, naked ease of naturally manifesting deity and clear wisdom sky space. (WS)


One of the greatest nihilist misunderstandings is the mistaken belief that karma means our destiny is already decided and that we do not have control over our lives.

Karma is misconceived by nihilists as just a support for unrealistic spiritual idealism, a fatalistic justification for life’s difficulties, and an excuse for passivity.

Believing in karma does not mean that we should accept any circumstances and leave them as they are. In relation to ourselves, just as, if our hair and body caught on fire, we would try to extinguish the fire as quickly as we could, we must try to do whatever we can to be released from the karma of negative circumstances.

In relation to others, just as a mother who sees her child drowning in a river would try to do as much as she could to rescue the child, belief in the karmic system implies that we think we can influence the destiny of others through intention and activity.

The wish to try to prevent negative circumstances and suffering and to cause positive circumstances and happiness for all beings is important within the karmic system because it creates the seed of pure compassion and the right point of view. Any action taken in response to karmic situations is not only a reaction to previous karma, but creates the seed for future karma. Belief in the karmic system is not an excuse for accepting whatever happens, but an impetus for creating what we wish to happen.

Nihilists may believe that as much as we intend to cause a certain result, another result may occur unpredictably. In these cases, we may be unable to identify the connection between cause and result, and nihilists may use this to try to disprove karma. But actually, the reason that ordinary beings are unable to determine the exact connections of karmic causes and results is only due to their obscured and limited perception.

Whether or not we perceive it, dualistic mind always circles evenly back and forth among all phenomena, moving between many objects, between subject and object, between all negative and positive extremes, and between all causes and results. If we have elation, it will cause an equal amount of depression when the elation is exhausted.

As Buddha said, it is tiring to live in saṃsāra because it is always circling evenly back and forth, and never releases toward one even goal.

Through our obstructed, short-sighted, nihilist, materializing calculations, we may think that karma is untrue because many beings are happy and enjoy good lives even though they do not believe in karma and do not think about nonvirtue and virtue or negative and positive intention, while others who do believe in karma and try with positive intention to abstain from nonvirtue and create virtue are suffering.

But this is as unreasonable as saying that if the results cannot be immediately observed, any activity is useless. Whether or not sentient beings believe in or are aware of the consequences of their actions, they are always creating karma.

When results cannot be foreseen or causes cannot be traced, it is only due to the limitations of miscalculated, nihilistic judgment and perception. Even when we try with intention to cause a particular result, another result may occur instead, which happens because of previous karmic effects that influence our circumstances.

The causes and results that we notice are only temporary and conspicuous aspects of karma within samsaric time and place. But karma is not only occurring within these obvious circumstances that we notice. It is endless and continuous because ordinary mind, which creates karma, is endless and continuous. (WS)


It is a mistake to confuse the theories of modern physics with Buddhist theories of emptiness and phenomena.

Even if an idea of emptiness as the vacuous absence of phenomena is accepted by non-spiritual scientists, the great, empty space of their own limitless mind, which is the sky of wisdom, is not acknowledged.

Scientific theories of relative phenomena are totally different from the Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna Buddhist teachings on the interdependence of phenomena. The result of nonspiritual scientific theory is the creation of substantial phenomena. The intention of Buddhism is to create substanceless light phenomena.

Also, no parallel can be made between nonspiritual scientific explanations of phenomena, which come from dualistic mind, and the Vajrayāna Buddhist teachings of the clear appearance of nonsubstantial appearance, which come from wisdom mind. From the point of view of nihilist science, fundamental, original mind is completely ignored as the source of phenomena, and no connection is even considered between phenomena and wisdom mind.

If we examine objective phenomena, we will find that its source is subjective ego. If we examine subjective ego, we will find that the source of objective phenomena does not exist because the subject does not exist as a substantial reality.

If we can recognize that phenomena never come to us, but only from us, the blossoming of fundamental inner pure Buddha phenomena becomes indistinguishable from outer pure Buddha phenomena, through practice. Then, all phenomena can be transformed into the appearance of enlightenment, abiding in the awareness of immeasurable, indivisible, nongrasping phenomena.

Whenever a fundamental, imperceptible particle of phenomena is pursued by nonspiritual science to find the source of phenomena, or even if an ultimate attribute of mind is pursued with grasping in spiritual practice, it eventually results in the maniacal frenzy of this world. (WS)


People living in great poverty with begging hands and pitiful eyes are struggling to find bliss. People living in great wealth with sagging bellies and greedy eyes are hoping to find bliss.

Old people feebly walk about with stick in hand to find bliss. Young people proudly walk about with cock in hands to find bliss.

Lowly clerks, though they don’t like their position, lick the boots of high executives to find bliss. High executives, though they fear revolution, continue to abuse lowly clerks to find bliss.

Some couples meet and marry in order to find bliss. Some couples separate and divorce in order to find bliss.

Some people insult each other in order to find bliss. Some people praise each other in order to find bliss.

Some people commit suicide to shorten their lives in order to find bliss. Some people become health fanatics to live a long life in order to find bliss.

Feculent pigs wallow in dirty mud to find bliss. Beautiful swans glide in clean pools to find bliss.

Some people are very narrow-minded in order to find bliss. Some people are very open-minded in order to find bliss.

Some government are facist in order to find bliss. Some government are democratic in order to find bliss.

Some people, including monks, keep short hair in order to find bliss. Some people, including yogis, keep long hair in order to find bliss.

Some ritualist ring the bell from inside and beat the drum from outside, creating noise to find bliss. Some meditators sit alone watching their mind inside and their noses outside, creating silence to find bliss.

Hermits go to a fresh-air hermitage and shit warm turds in cool, pleasant meadows to find bliss. Socializers go to stuffy Dharma centers, the cool thing to do, and meet warm lovers to find bliss.

Non-religious persons hate religious persons in order to find bliss. Religious persons hate non-religious persons in order to find bliss.

Some sectarians expose their hard penis for all to see and debauch prudish doctrines in order to find bliss. Some supposed nonsectarians bend their hard penis in nonsectarian jockstraps and seduce open-fly sectarians in order to find bliss.

Hinayana followers try to abandon desire to find bliss. Inner Vajrayana followers try to use desire to find bliss.

Hot steam ascends to form clouds that condense into a cool, pleasant rain. Cool water descends to turn generators that convert it’s power into warm, glowing lights.

Bodhisattvas are praying and manifesting activity, sometimes in a masochistic style, sometimes in a sadistic style, in order for all sentient beings to find bliss.

Lord Buddha taught in countless different ways so that all beings with countless different faculties can find bliss.

Anyway, wherever they go, all sentient beings from insects to wise men appear to be competing, running a race to find bliss. So, to find bliss, all you have to do is choose your target; don’t bother about anyone’s target. (GG)


GG - Gypsy Gossip and Other Advice
EBT - Echoes: The Boudhanath Teachings
CWN - A Cascading Waterfall of Nectar
MD - Magic Dance
WS - White Sail

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