“Words Of My Perfect Teacher” Transcript
(This teaching was given at Drikung Mahayana Center in Apr 25-27, 2001. In this teaching, Garchen Rinpoche gives a brief commentary on Patrul Rinpoche’s ‘The Words Of My Perfect Teacher’. Oral translation was provided by Tashi Jamyangling. This is transcribed from 6 cassette tapes, and is lightly edited.)
First of all, to all dharma brothers and sisters, I want to wish you tashi deleg. Assembly of the most excellent Sangha – Sangha as in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – this is what a Sangha is, the assembly of the practitioners or the followers of Dharma.
The words of enlightened beings, the words of a Buddha, are absolutely profound. Each word has many profound meanings, that is, if you have the academic knowledge. But I do not have a great deal of academic knowledge – just enough to get by with my practice. In accordance with my own understanding of the Dharma, I will give you a brief teaching(1).
(1) These teachings were sponsored by the Drikung Mahayana Center and given on April 25-27, 2001, in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
THE FOUR MIND REVERSALS
We have in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition four major lineages. Each lineage is a path. All of these paths lead to the same destination. The Buddhas have reached enlightenment because of their supplication, because of their pledge to practice Bodhicitta. And secondly the Buddhas have reached enlightenment because they accumulated vast amounts of merits in many countless numbers of lifetimes. Likewise when we practice the Four Mind Reversals and gradually develop the motivation, the inclination to practice Dharma, we are following in the footsteps of the previous Buddhas.
Lord Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths. The first is to understand the Truth of Existence of Suffering. Next, Lord Buddha said that in order to abandon or get rid of this Suffering, we must understand the Truth of the Causes of Suffering. Suffering originates from afflictive emotions which give rise to rebirth in the six realms of existence. Thus one thing leads to another. In our Dharma practice, to put an end to samsaric rebirth, we need to practice the Four Mind Reversals. They are the instruments with which we work to break out of the cycle of samsara.
We refer to samsaric existence as cyclic existence because we keep on taking one rebirth after another. This is due to our attachment to the five senses and the five sense objects. We are attached to this worldly life. An antidote to this is the understanding of the Eight Leisures and the Ten Endowments(2). We take rebirth in samsara due to laziness; the antidote for that is to reverse our mind by understanding the impermanence of the nature of all things in samsara(3). To disengage from samsara we need to understand and practice the sufferings that exist in samsara (4). The sufferings come about as a result of having engaged in non-virtuous deeds; thus we need to know about cause and effect (5).
(2) First of the Four Mind Reversals, which His Eminence discusses later.
(3) Second of the Four Mind Reversals.
(4) Third of the Four Mind Reversals.
(5) Fourth of the Four Mind Reversals.
There are other means of escaping from the sufferings of samsara. For example one could practice Shamatha meditation. When we do that it will stabilize the mind and one would definitely escape from the pain and suffering of samsara. But, due to causes and conditions, we can be shaken out of that meditation. Practice of the Four Mind Reversals helps us lay a rock-solid foundation. When this becomes second nature, no matter what kind of causes and conditions confront us, one’s mental state remains unshakable.
To actually be able to reverse the mind – for example to refrain from unleashing aggression because you know that the result of unleashing aggression is rebirth in the hell realms – is easier said than done. It is difficult to put an end to generating aggression and especially unleashing aggression. But if we understand the suffering that exist in the hell realms (6), this will instill a sense of urgency and we will stop ourselves from unleashing aggression and say “Well, I better be careful because the consequences I have to pay are really, really, very grave.” So when we are well trained in the Four Mind Reversals and every time aggression arises in us, we will immediately come to think of a way to counteract it. For example one tool for doing that is that each time aggression arises, we just shout aloud at the top of our lung and say “Aggression!” That process will immediately dissipate the rise of aggression.
(6) This topic is contained in the third of the Four Mind Reversals.
When I was young my teachers would give us extensive teachings on each of the six realms of existence. We found Dharma discourses on sufferings of the hell realms for example to be nothing but extremely boring. They would go on and on and on, and we would just keep getting bored. We need to understand the real reason why so much emphasis is being put on describing the hell, demigod and other realms. The topic really is the six afflictive emotions or the six poisons (7). First, we must hear these teachings because without hearing we cannot analyze, and without analyzing we cannot sit down and meditate. So first you must hear what the Lama has to say. Then you must cast your mind on the things that you have heard and finally sit down and meditate on these things. Once you have done this you will have a better appreciation that the six realms of existence have to do with the six afflictive emotions.
(7) Aggression, Miserliness, Ignorance, Desire, Jealousy and Pride.
So especially the people who are new to the Dharma teachings, many times you will feel really, really bored and you wouldn’t feel like listening or paying attention to these teachings. Keep in mind that when the Lama is talking about the hell realm – being born in a hell realm – he is really talking about aggression. When the Lama is talking about the realm of hungry ghosts or pretas, he is really talking about miserliness. This is the type of behavior that does not want to spend a single penny but wants to accumulate all one can. This is the stinginess that is depicted with the picture of a preta with belly the size of a cosmos and a very, very, tiny throat. The size of the belly indicates that even if one has the possessions of the whole wide world still one would not be satisfied. When we talk about the demigods constantly waging war and not having peace and quiet, we are talking about Jealousy. When we are talking about animals, we are talking about Ignorance. So understand these things in their proper context.
When you understand what the disease is, what the symptoms are and what the prescription is, then you will overcome not wanting to listen or pay attention. First we have to hear the teachings. Then with an analytical mind we must investigate the validity of these teachings. Once we are sure of the validity of these teachings then we should sit down and meditate. Meditate we must – because, if we do not, then all the things we hear will be something like that news of a tragedy far away that we see unfolding on our television sets. It is there on the screen when we see the graphics and once it has finished, it is finished. We wouldn’t actually feel the pain of what is going on far away in the world.
Traditionally it took us a hundred days to receive these teachings on the Four Mind Reversals. Every day each and every aspect of this teaching we had to go home and meditate. Then we would get tested and we had to tell our experiences to our teacher. Finally, when he was satisfied, which took one hundred days in all, only then we would begin to receive other teachings. What I am giving you is a brief teaching. You should go back and read the details and try to get the fullest meaning (8). Each time you will read something new will come up and you will find that you are learning something new every time.
(8) In the book Words Of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, HarperCollinsPublishers (1994).
Sit down and practice the Four Mind Reversals. Think about the sufferings that exist in the six realms of existence. When you actually experience them, this will stimulate you to practice Dharma.
In our Dharma practice, motivation plays a major role. Our motivation must be pure. To have pure motivation, we must have Bodhicitta in our mind. “Bodhicitta in our mind” means that we must have loving kindness and compassion towards other sentient beings because all sentient beings, as far and wide as the sky, have once upon a time been our parents. We talk about parents, especially mother, because normally there exists love and kindness between mother and child. The relationship between mother and child is very, very special and that is why we recite “all mother sentient beings”.
When we talk about “loving kindness and compassion,” you should know that it is a tool to put an end to suffering. Suffering arises from attachment and aversion. Attachment comes about due to ignorance. Ignorance means treating oneself as the center of everything else and everything else revolves around the word ‘I’. Ignorance leads to attachment towards ourselves and towards those that appeal to us; and towards those that do not appeal to us it leads to aggression. So to help dismantle this egocentric attitude we generate loving kindness and compassion. This is why we recite “OM MANI PADME HUM.”
Children who do not have a great deal of devotion or love towards their parents can perhaps think of their boyfriends, girlfriends or any other with whom they feel close. They can then think of “all mother sentient beings” as being their boyfriend, girlfriend or whoever may be close to them. When there is love and compassion in our mindstream towards others, that generates a great deal of happiness in us and it also creates happiness in those around us. It is mutually beneficial. So I emphasize to think about how kind mother sentient beings are to us. Think about your own relationships with other sentient beings. Finally we must not only think about these things but also meditate because if we did not, we would not develop a deeper appreciation about these things.
First we must start with meditating on love and compassion towards parents or anyone with whom we feel close. Gradually then we must extend this love and devotion towards all mother sentient beings. One thing I can say for sure with absolute certainty is that until and unless you have loving kindness and compassion in your heart for all sentient beings, you cannot possibly reach enlightenment. That is totally given. Therefore understand that all sentient beings no matter how big or how small they are, they desire happiness. For example ants desire happiness. When we fly up high in the sky and look down on those tiny little automobiles, they are just like little ants hurrying and scurrying in every which direction. Whether we are ants or human beings traveling in automobiles, basically we have the same needs and wants. The only difference is the amount of merit we have accumulated in our past lives.
Because of that accumulation of merit or virtue in so many former lives we are now in a very privileged situation. We now have access to the Buddha’s teachings and teachers and Sangha members; we have spiritual friends who dispense Dharma teachings to us. This is all because of our accumulation of virtue in many former lives. If in these fortunate circumstances we were to forsake all mother sentient beings, if we do not as much as generate loving kindness and compassion towards others, that would be a very, very shameful thing. Remember that when we generate loving kindness and compassion towards all mother sentient beings, this is something that is totally and mutually beneficial. Not only will it benefit mother sentient beings, but undeniably it also will be your path to liberation.
When we say we must have loving kindness and compassion towards others, we are not saying we must do this only during Dharma teaching sessions and that as soon as we walk out of the room we act differently. No. We must have loving kindness and compassion at all times. Love and compassion is the Buddhist View. It is the root, the foundation, the essence of all the Buddha’s teachings. It is needed from the very beginning till the very end. If we have these two they alone are sufficient to reach enlightenment and if we do not we cannot reach enlightenment. Love and compassion are totally indispensable.
Whether we are doing higher practices, doing a retreat or simply sitting down and counting our beads 108 times saying OM MANI PADME HUM, it does not matter how profound or how deep, our dharma practice must be done with pure motivation, with love and compassion. Love and compassion must be part and parcel of every Dharma practice we do. Our activities of body, speech, and mind – any activity – every activity – must incorporate loving kindness and compassion. We cannot part from this.
When we talk about “virtuous deeds,” virtue really is love and compassion. If we sit down and do our Dharma practice without love and compassion, that would be like continuing to put tinder wood in a stove without lighting matches. We can keep on piling wood on top of wood and totally fill it up but still it would not keep us warm. Loving kindness and compassion is like lighting that match, and it will generate heat.
Suppose we come across someone, maybe a sick person who is going through a lot of pain and suffering, and because of that we generate love and compassion towards that person, this would be called targeted or focused compassion. In this case we are not taking into account the fact that all living beings as far and wide as all of space are mother sentient beings and that each and every one of them, because they live in samsara, have a great deal of suffering. If because of this particular reason we were to develop that same warm, kind, loving and compassionate feeling toward all mother sentient beings. That would be called untargeted or undirected compassion, which is Bodhicitta (9) mind generation. When we practice Dharma, we must have this kind of undirected compassion toward all mother sentient beings.
(9) Literally, “Mind of a Buddha”
Loving kindness and compassion and Bodhicitta mind generation must be followed by dedication. These three elements of the practice in the Nyingmapa tradition are called the three sublime elements. All the Buddhas of the past have dedicated merits for the benefit of all sentient beings, and we do likewise. It is like there is this huge ocean of merit dedicated by all the Buddhas, and we are contributing to that, even if it is just one drop generated by doing our own practice. Dedication is very, very important. When we dedicate our merit for the benefit of all sentient beings, our merit does not fade away or run out; it remains for as long as the ocean remains.
As long as the motivation is pure, even if the merit that we generate due to our practice is small, the benefit will be very, very big. But if the motivation is not pure, we could be doing a huge dharma activity, but the benefit will be very, very small. For example if we did something fantastic for superficial reasons, such as name and fame arising out of attachment to oneself, this is ego-related dharma activity without pure motivation would not bear fruit because it is done with attachment and ‘I’. Although a practice itself may be Dharma, a motivation-less practice is adulteration with poison. If we practice just for the sake of name and fame, there will be many impediments on the Path, and we will not accumulate positive karma.
So it is useful to investigate ourselves when we embark on a dharma activity. When we go to receive teachings we must ask ourselves if our motivation is pure or not and listen to our inner voice. The moment we see that our motivation isn’t all that pure, it is detection by our Alert-Mind, which is part and parcel of the True Nature of Mind. When the alert mind detects a fault then it is very, very easy to correct it and if it does not detect such a motivation-less Dharma activity, when we do not see faults as faults; that is very, very dangerous. Without pure motivation dharma practitioners are somewhat like a lifeless mannequin but when we have Bodhicitta it is a different story.
Tantrayana is a specialized method for reaching enlightenment. It is meant for practitioners with a special kind of mental ability. For them the result of realizing enlightenment is very, very fast. It is fast because it is a very, very profound and specialized teaching and takes a special kind of mental ability to make use of this vehicle. It is a skillful method that does not require an awful lot of hard work.
In tantric practice, the outer physical world systems and the inner inhabitants, everything we see, we perceive as pure vision. In pure vision, there is nothing impure. There is nothing that is not sublime. Everything is Pure and this is related to the concept of Emptiness. Those who can practice tantras, who have an experiential understanding of tantric practice, they look and see things as they are. If we do not have this experiential understanding we must have devotion and faith.
Novice tantric practitioners, when we meet a dharma teacher, we see a mixture of qualities and faults, a mixed bag of good and not so good. But then if we take another look through the lens of the tantric teachings, we see a different vision. That same Lama is nothing less than the Buddha himself. In Lama’s mind we see the dual presence of emptiness and compassion, which is nothing less than the Buddha’s mind. Lama’s body we see as the Sangha, always doing pious deeds in dispensing the teachings of the Buddha to all sentient beings. Lama’s speech we hear as the Buddha’s teachings. In this way, if we take a second really long and hard look, then we see things differently. This kind of Pure Vision, through the tantric lens, we must extend to all mother sentient beings.
Take the example of any living being. When we take a good look at that person, the inner Five Afflictive Emotions (10) of that being, when purified, are really nothing but the Five Wisdoms(11).That is how the tantras see the five inner afflictive emotions or the five poisons. All the tangible world systems the whole of outer-shell as we call it (12) is made out of the Five Elements(13). These elements when they are purified become the Five Consorts of the Five Principle Buddhas(14). When we see each and every one of these five elements as nothing but pure, they become the Five Consorts of the Five Principal Buddhas. Each one, the earth element for example, we do not see merely as earth, as dirt, but as something far greater. This is how we look at things from the tantric point of view. This is how we see all things in existence as pure.
(10) Ignorance, attachment, aversion, jealousy and pride.
(11) The true nature of the Five Poisons. They are Wisdom of Absolute Space, Discriminating Wisdom, Mirror-Like Wisdom, All-Accomplishing Wisdom and the Wisdom of Equality.
(12) The inanimate universe is referred to as the outer shell and the living beings as the inner nutrients.
(13) Space, fire, earth, wind and water.
(14) The five consorts are: Vajradhatvisvari, Pandaravasini, Locani, Tarani and Mamaki. The five principle Buddhas are: Buddha Vairocana, Buddha Amitabha, Buddha Aksobhya, Buddha Amoghasiddhi and Buddha Ratnasambhava.
When we transform these seemingly impure perceptions into pure vision, this gradually leads us to the realization that it really isn’t mental transformation at all. Instead of transforming them into something that they are not, we are seeing things as they really are by nature. In this way, step-by-step, when we enrich our experiential understanding, gradually our experience becomes deeper and more profound. Then we experience the state of the true nature of mind, the Dharmakaya state of Buddhahood, and the intentionality of that state.
To apply this Pure Vision in our daily lives, for example to this very moment of receiving teachings, in the beginning we mentally transform everything around us. We mentally transform this place into the Guru Padmasambhava’s pure land the Glorious Copper Colored Mountain. We transform Lama Garchen Rinpoche into Guru Padmasambhava. And we transform all the Dharma brothers and sisters who are under this roof into the Dharma King of Tibet (15).
(15) Translator’s clarification: The enlightened practitioners of contemporary times.
In the Mahayana tradition, we have devotion toward the Buddhas. The Buddhas of the three times past, present, and future – the word Buddha means an Enlightened being someone who has nothing but love and compassion towards all sentient beings. In tantric practice, the difference between an enlightened being and a Vajra Master or a dharma teacher – there is absolutely none. In fact looking through the tantric lens, there is no difference whatsoever between Enlightened and Non-Enlightened beings and, indeed, there is no difference between Samsara and Nirvana. This is because we are looking through a lens that is free from conceptual thought and is totally pure vision.
In terms of Pure Vision, we have discussed seeing the Lama as the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha (16). We can also visualize the Lama as the Guru, Yidam Deities and Dakinis (17). When we practice guru devotion we visualize the teacher as having the qualities of all the Three Roots. Sentient beings also in Pure Vision are the Three Roots and the Three Jewels.
(16) Known as the Three Jewels.
(17) Known as the Three Roots.
There are numerous beings that have not been touched by the Buddhas of the many, many kalpas long ago, but Lamas in the present time can dispense the teachings of the Buddha and reach all those beings. Lama is so important; Lama is the embodiment of the Buddha’s Body, Speech and Mind. One must generate the utmost devotion towards the Lama. There are three reasons why: because one likes the Lama, because one has the need to receive teachings from the Lama, and because one believes in the Lama.
All living beings have the Buddha seed in themselves. As the Hevajra Tantra says:
All beings are Buddhas
But this is concealed by adventitious stains.
When their stains are purified,
their Buddhahood is revealed.
To be reborn as a human being where we have the Eight Leisures and the Ten Endowments, we are blessed with a very rare chance. We are in a situation where we have access to the Dharma due to meeting with the Lamas and, not only that, we have the most skillful and speediest methods to reach enlightenment. We are in a very rare situation where we can reach enlightenment.
HOW TO LISTEN TO TEACHINGS
In terms of Conduct, when receiving teachings and doing Dharma practice, there are two classes: one that should be incorporated in our activities and other that should be given up. In discussing this, we use the example of a vessel or a container. There are three defects of a container, referring to the three defects in the conduct of a practitioner. There is the defect of not listening when the teaching is being given, which is like putting the container upside down. Water is pouring but nothing will go inside. Next there is the defect of listening but not paying attention, which is like pouring water in a vessel that has plenty of holes in the bottom. It is constantly leaking and nothing is retained in that kind of vessel. The third defect is when we sit and receive teachings but our mind stream is saturated with afflictive emotions, which is like a container that is right side up and without holes but contaminated with poison. These are the three defects of a vessel in one’s conduct that we should abandon in our dharma practice.
Instead, when receiving Dharma teachings, we should sit down and pay attention. This is not to say that we force ourselves to pay attention. Attentiveness should come very naturally without forcing. This type of paying attention without making any kind of special effort is very difficult to come naturally except for a very, very few people who are really gifted. The rest of us, who cannot do this, should at least try to sit quietly in a state of mind that is free from discursive thoughts. If we can remain in such a state without letting the mind wander off the benefit will be tremendous. In this state of mind even though we may not understand the words that are being said, when we go through the stages of bardo after death we will be able to remember everything in total clarity. During that time everything will come to us. That is why Shamatha meditation is so important. If you can just stay in that state you are connecting your mind with the Mind of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This is how they come due to our making a connection with their minds.
Generally, we do not remember everything that is said in a Dharma discourse, but we should at least try to remember the gist of the teachings. Of the three categories of Dharma practitioners (18), the excellent practitioners will always remember the gist or the most important points and incorporate them into their daily practice. The gist of what have discussed this far is talking about loving kindness and compassion, thinking about what is beneficial for others rather than placing importance on oneself. We have talked about tantric practice and the way we should see all things. We have said, “Let us not label some things as bad and other things as good, because in tantric approach we practice Pure Vision.” We have said, “Let us treat all sentient beings as mother sentient beings.” We have talked about what is virtue and what is non-virtue. We are talking about what is to be given up, and what is to be incorporated.
(18) Excellent, intermediate and average.
In practical terms, wherever we are and in whatever we do, we must incorporate the teachings daily. For example, when we wake up in the morning, instead of saying, “Let me snooze another 15 minutes;” we should say, “The human life is a very rare occurrence, and I have got this wonderful opportunity, so let me make the best use of it. Let me get up and do some Dharma practice.” That would be the right attitude. In the morning, think about how rare it is to be born as a human being, at midday think about cause and effect and, when you go to bed, just before you doze off, think about impermanence.
The thing we must not do is mix our Dharma activity with poison. Je Gampopa has said that if Dharma is not practiced in a Dharmic way, then Dharma itself can become a cause for us to take rebirth in the three lower realms. We can attend the teachings in the name of Dharma, but instead of making use of the opportunity to benefit oneself and others, if we were to develop wrong views like finding faults with the Lama and Dharma brothers and sisters, that would be harmful to ourselves and others. I always emphasize that the issue is not only about keeping proper Samaya with your teacher, but also there must always be proper Samaya with your Dharma brothers and sisters. Once Samaya is established, we should make a careful effort to stay within the confines of the Samaya. Whether the situation is inter-denominational or whether it has to do with a different Lama, always keep devotion.
The Six Stains
We should avoid the Six Stains. The first one is Pride – taking the attitude when you sit down and listen to the teachings of the Lama and say, “Oh yeah, that may be so, but you see, I know a little bit more than you because according to science, according to technology, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. No, it does not quite jive with what you are saying.” This kind of attitude is not right. To overcome that type of attitude, we should read the life histories of enlightened beings.
The second stain is inadequate faith in the Lama. Maybe from our perspective the Lama is not exactly regular in his activities. We see irregularities pop up every now and then and use that to make imprints on our mind. We say, “Yup, here comes an irregularity, and here comes another.”
Every time we say that, we end up making imprints on our mind, which otherwise by its very nature is pristine and stainless. It would be beneficial to leave stainless this stainless mirror of our mind. If there is fault with the Lama, that is his business not our business.
We need to be skillful in our practice. One way to be skillful is to treat all Lamas with devotion and not be biased. The minute we are nearer to some Lamas than to others, we create attachment and aversion. To whomsoever we feel close, there is automatic attachment and, for ones that we feel a little distant, there is automatic aversion. Attachment and aversion is dualistic clinging. What we have to say is, “I am the one who needs to be purified, and I am the one who needs teachings. So I generate devotion to all teachers, because all teachers embody the Body, Speech, and Mind of the Buddha.”
The Three Types of Faith
When there is ego and pride, it obstructs us not only from seeing our own faults, but also from seeing the qualities of others. We should have faith in all Lamas. When it comes to Faith generally, there are three types (19). But in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, Patrul Rinpoche mentions a fourth type, irreversible faith. This is the type of faith that we should all strive to develop.
(19) Vivid faith, eager faith and confident faith.
In the context of the three categories of Dharma practitioners, I will give you an example of how the historical Buddha Sakyamuni received teachings and practiced Dharma. Gautama Buddha practiced dharma for three countless kalpas, which really means a countless number of life times. The life span of individuals in earlier days was much longer and he accumulated merits for three countless kalpas. When we think about the sacrifices that he made, the hardships that he endured, the efforts that he put in learning and practice, those of us who have faith know that it is just mind-boggling. Those who do not have faith will immediately turn around and say, “Well, you know this is just hog-wash.” It is that unbelievable.”
In the Sutras, we find the life histories (20) of Gautama Buddha in his many past lives. A classic example is when Gautama Buddha sat in meditation and dug out holes in his body, filled them with butter and oil, put a wick in them and lit them as lamp offerings, as a mark of respect for the teachings.
In another life, when he was born as a king, he offered his whole kingdom to the Three Jewels and gave up his wife, children and eyeballs as charity. As a result of having put in so much effort, if we now look at the Buddha’s activities, the kind of followers that he has and the kind of benefit that he has brought to sentient beings, it is indicative of what he put into his own practice. If we read these wonderful stories and compare them to our contemporary times, there is such a huge contrast that it is almost unbelievable.
(20) Note: Rinpoche refers to these as life histories not life stories.
In much, much, later times, but not such a long time ago, we can turn to Milarepa’s life history. Milarepa reached enlightenment because of the sacrifices and the efforts that he made and this enlightenment was mutually beneficial: Milarepa himself reached enlightenment but in doing so he also left us a wonderful heritage in this world. The so-called Kagyupa tradition is the result of Milarepa’s sacrifices and efforts. This is the kind of impact that one person has made on this world – one person but big impact.
I myself have received teachings from masters belonging to the Sakya lineage, Geluk lineage and Nyingma lineage, but mainly from the Kagyupa tradition. I have received teachings from masters across the board. What I find is that the practice is basically the same in all traditions because in the core of every practice is Bodhicitta, loving kindness and compassion. From each master I receive a special kind of insight, a special kind of knowledge, and a special kind of blessing. My own root lama, Siddha Chime Dorje (21), went on solitary meditation retreat at the age of 13. He was such a great, wonderful master. Even to this day we can see miraculous footprints and handprints on solid rock in his meditation cave.
(21) Chime Dorje was Rinpoche’s main teacher during early childhood.
There are many enlightened beings among sentient beings. There will be many enlightened beings among sentient beings. Especially among human beings, there will be many enlightened beings. When enlightened beings are among us we will not notice them because they will remain secretive yogis. They will not go about bragging about their abilities, nor will they try to be very visible. They will conduct themselves quite unlike contemporary masters and, only when they are long gone, will we find out that they were so wonderful, so enlightened. For example, the Dharma King Songtsen Gampo, when he was alive, he was no more than just a regular king who looked after the affairs of his country, who dispensed justice and at times punished. But, at the time of his passing, he and his two principal consorts miraculously absorbed into the Lokeshvaraya statue in Tibet and disappeared (22). Only then did people come to their senses and realize that he was not a regular king but an enlightened being.
(22) Lokeshvaraya is a Sanskrit name for Chenrezig.
PATIENCE AND CONDUCT
Why I am telling you all these things? Because when past masters have put in so much sacrifice, hardship and patience, what we should try to do is at least put in a fraction of what they have done. That is my point. We must endure hardship. We must exercise patience. The moment we are tempted by sensual objects and the moment we are challenged by aversion, that is the time we must meet the challenge and exercise patience.
When we are attracted to an external sense object it immediately results in the accumulation of negative karma that results in future suffering. In terms of animals and insects, for example, if through the use of the eye sense we are attached to an eye-sense object, it will be something like a butterfly flying into the candle flame and, as a result, either the wings get singed or, in the worst case, it meets with death. If through the use of ears we are attracted to a sound object, it will be something like a wild animal being lured and trapped by a hunter. If through the use of our nose we are attracted to a scent object, it will be something like being trapped in the petals of a flower and loosing one’s life. If through the use of tongue we become attached to a taste object, it will be something like a fish being caught in a hook. If we become attached to a touch feeling, it will be something like an elephant being stuck in a mud pond. These are just examples to indicate that, when attachment arises, there is a consequence to pay. When we have an insatiable amount of attachment and desire, it is no good.
Of course, at the relative level we have to resort to the use of our senses and the outer sense objects from which there is no escaping, but we must make use of these things in moderation. If we do not practice moderation, it will work against us. In terms of clothing, let us not make it extraordinarily expensive and let us not wear things that are not absolutely necessary. In terms of food, let us be satisfied with one or two dishes and not be spoiled by having a table full of all kinds of dishes, which we do not really need for body’s sustenance. And, in terms of tobacco and alcohol, if we cannot give up the habit even when it puts our life in danger, this is due to attachment, grasping and clinging. Our mind may be wandering anywhere after sense objects, even though the body may be under this roof in an assembly situation receiving Dharma teachings, which is why I emphasize moderation.
Another aspect of conduct – we tend to cast our mind in the past, and we have a tendency to usher in the future prematurely. Past events, whatever has happened, we tend to unnecessarily cast our mind on them and think about those events. Things that happened in the past we refresh it over and over again. The past is past it is gone, just let it go. It is no use trying to chase what is already gone. Future events have not come yet, so there isn’t a great deal of point in trying to think of the future and of things that have never happened and probably will not happen ever. This is not saying that we should not plan for the future because, to reap the harvest sometime in the future, we must plan to plant the crops earlier. Absolutely, the things that are practically needed, we must do, but other than that, if we worry too much about what may or may not happen in the future, that is useless thought. Be mindful about this.
Patrul Rinpoche explains with an analogy that chasing the past is something like trying to draw a picture on the surface of a flowing stream. That is not possible because, the minute we make any imprint, it will wash away. Ushering in the future is something like a fisherman casting his net in a rocky barren place, where there isn’t a drop of water, and thinking to himself that sometime in the future rain will come, and then there will be fish. This is a very important point, and Patrul Rinpoche uses many such analogies. I am just skimming these teachings but if you find the book and read the details, it is going to make an impact on you (23).
(23) Words Of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche, 2nd Edition, Translated by Padmakara Translation Group.
In terms of conduct, when we receive teachings or sit down to do our Dharma practice, we should not be excessively concentrated nor so excessively relaxed that we treat it casually. In our meditation practice if we tense up we will get a headache and if we make it very casual then it will induce sleep and both of these extremes are not good. There was a disciple of Gautama Buddha who just couldn’t get it right. One day Lord Buddha asked him to come and answer some questions. “Do you know how to tune a vina?”(24) The disciple said, “Yes, I do know how to tune a stringed instrument.” And then Gautama Buddha asked, “Is it good when you apply a great deal of tension to the string?” And the disciple said, “No, it does not work that way.” And the Gautama asked, “Does it work when you leave a lot of slack?” And the disciple said, “No, that does not work either.” And then Gautama concluded, “Well in meditation do not apply excessive tension or leave a lot of slack. That is my advice.”
(24) A stringed instrument in India like a guitar or a violin.
When we face difficulties while receiving Dharma teachings such as feeling drowsy or tired, we should freshen up and remind our self that this life is very precious. We have the Eight Leisures and the Ten Endowments and, when we are endowed with such wonderful opportunities, we really should pay attention.
The Five Errors
Again in terms of conduct, we should avoid the five so-called errors associated with listening or remembering teachings.
- Some people would rather focus on the fancy words and phrases but not on the essence meaning of the words. An analogy is that they are like infants going out and plucking flowers.
- There are others who would focus on the meaning but not care about the words; that will not work either. The words and meaning must go hand-in-hand or else, somewhere down the road, we will be totally lost and, out of context, not have any reference point.
- The third error occurs when you do not get the message clearly but all the same you say you got it and happily walk away. For example at some point during the teachings we may say, “Yes, it is true there exists a table here.” And at other times we may say, “No, at the ultimate level a table does not exist.” Mixing the expedient and real truths is the third error.
- The fourth error is the mixing up of the sequence of teachings. What is supposed to be step 1, step 2 and step 3 will be totally mixed up in a discombobulated fashion. When a sequence of steps in a practice is mixed up it can become totally nonsensical and if this happens in the context of a tantric practice and we develop a wrong view, then the consequences can be very, very grave. So it is very important to receive and practice the teachings in the correct sequence.
- The final error we can make while listening is getting the opposite meaning from what is intended.
Viewing the Dharma as Medicine
Lord Buddha himself described in one of the sutras how we should receive teachings. Those who receive teachings should consider themselves as somebody who is sick and urgently needs healing, the Dharma teachings as medicine, the teacher as a doctor and the practice of Dharma as the healing process. This should be the relationship between these four.
The root cause of all suffering, physical as well as mental, is the three poisons – attachment, aggression and ignorance. When we suffer from any kind of disease that endangers our life the worst that can happen is we might die, and it is just a matter of leaving behind one’s corpse, which is really not a big deal. However, if you consider that the rising up and unleashing of afflictive emotions can kill one’s chance to liberation and endanger and harm Bodhicitta; that is very, very dangerous.
In the Tibetan medical system, we say that there are 424 different types of known diseases, the root cause of which are the three poisons –attachment, aggression and ignorance, which give rise to three categories of diseases that are related to wind, bile and phlegm (25). Under these three categories, there are additional categories of heat and cold related diseases. So when Gautama
(25) Translator’s clarification: As used here, wind, bile and phlegm does not refer to our ordinary understand by these words. Just think of them as three essential things in our bodily constitution. When there is imbalance, then diseases arise. Wind, bile, and phlegm are the result of the three poisons.
Buddha uses oneself as the sick person and the Lama as the doctor and the teachings as the medicine, it makes perfect sense because the root causes of all sickness is the three poisons. If we receive the medicine the Lama gives us correctly, then it will have the proper effect and, conversely, if we do everything wrong and keep on saying, “May I receive the grace of the Lama,” it just wouldn’t work. Having received this wonderful life with the Eight Leisures and the Ten Endowments, we must try to practice Dharma by correctly incorporating all the wonderful methods that have been shown to us.
We have received many pith instructions, each more profound than the previous. Now, if we don’t practice and forget the sufferings in this life, when we go through the bardo stages, the suffering will really be overwhelming. About the bardo stages, even Guru Rinpoche said that it is a very difficult period because our consciousness is something like a feather being blown about every which way by a very strong wind. There is no telling where it will go. Right now it is up to us whether we go up or we go down, and that depends on our practice. Of course, we will receive empowerments and there will be death ceremonies and so on which will help, but the demarcation point is right now. It is up to us to determine where we will end up. So treating oneself as the sick person and Dharma teaching as the medicine and the Lama the doctor is the right type of mindset.
This leads us to the practice of the Six Perfections (26), which really starts from the moment we begin to assemble together to do the opening prayers. The bringing and displaying of flowers in the room and the offering of the mandala are the practices of Generosity. Cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming and trying to conduct oneself in a proper manner are about abiding by the moral code of conduct. Not harming living beings, not killing them, not trampling on them, not getting on each other’s nerves in an assembly situation, making an effort to sit through the teachings, ignoring heat and thirst, are the practices of Patience. Listening without keeping wrong views and continuing to see the Lama with faith is the practice of diligence. Paying one-pointed attention while receiving teachings is the practice of concentration. Investigating and asking questions where things are not clear is wisdom (27).
(26) Generosity, morality, diligence, patience, concentration and wisdom.
(27) Wisdom is a very profound Buddhist concept beyond words; here His Eminence is addressing one aspect of Wisdom at the relative level of truth.
THE EIGHT LEISURES AND THE TEN ENDOWMENTS
Now I would like to talk about the eight leisures and the ten endowments (28), which you might have heard about many times, but because this is so important, I am going to discuss this again. If you have heard about these already, then try to meditate on each and every one of these as I remind you – that would be great.
(28) This relates to precious human existence, the first of the Four Mind Reversals.
The eight leisures and then ten endowments – there are examples and numerical comparisons indicating how difficult it is to be blessed with these. We say the eight “leisure defects” of samsara is when we are born
- in the realm of hell,
- in the realm of pretas (29),
- in the realm of animals,
- in the realm of gods who live very long,
- as a barbarian who doesn’t have a clue what Dharma is all about,
- with wrong views,
- born in a dark kalpa (30) at a time when there is no Buddha, or
- born with defective senses.
(29) Sanskrit term commonly translated as the Hungry Ghost realm.
(30) A kalpa is a very long period of time.
Anyone who is free from these eight terrible situations, in which we have no leisure to practice dharma, has what are called the eight leisures.
It is the six afflictive emotions that really give rise to rebirth in the six realms of existence. Of the six afflictive emotions, aggression gives rise to rebirth in the hell realms (31). There are eighteen different classifications of the hell realms. Once we are in the hell realms, there is continuous suffering. There are countless beings in the hell realms. In our mental state, if we are prone to aggression then there will be consequences to pay by unleashing it.
(31) First of the eight “leisure defects.”
It will help you to cast your mind to the sufferings that exists in the different hell realms, because this will drive you to lessen your aggression. When there is aggression in the mind and it is building up, then, to prevent yourself from taking rebirth in the hell realm, you must make a commitment to yourself and say, “Okay, I am not going to unleash this negative emotion. I will stay totally quiet and not speak with anyone unless this emotion goes away. I will stay still and not use my fist until this emotion disappears.” This is how we go about getting rid of aggression.
Birth in the realm of pretas (32) is the result of miserly or stingy behavior, which comes about due to tremendous attachment. In the realm of pretas, there is constant suffering of hunger and thirst.
(32) Second of the eight “leisure defects.”
Birth in the animal realm (33) comes about due to ignorance or the inability to distinguish between right from wrong. For example we have this tendency to want to sleep many, many, hours and to rest instead of wanting to learn and practice. In the realm of animals, there is a tremendous amount of suffering, such as animals being used as beasts of burden, and big animals killing small animals.
(33) Third of the eight “leisure defects.”
When beings have a tremendous amount of pride, it leads to rebirth in the realm of gods (34). When we take rebirth in the realm of gods, we simply do not have the conditions to practice dharma because everything is so continually pleasurable and distracting. In this situation, once your life span runs out then there is only one place to go is the lower realms (35).
(34) Fourth of the eight “leisure defects.”
(35) Once the merits that gave rise to being born in a god realm are exhausted, one must pay the karmic debt generated by a self-centered life of pleasure.
When one is born in a remote place (36) where one does not have access to Dharma teachings, it is not conducive to the attainment of our goal of enlightenment. Even if one is born in a situation where one has access to the Dharma teachings but one’s mind is full of wrong views (37), that kind of birth is not good either. Yet, if we take rebirth in one of the dark kalpas (38) between the periods when one Buddha has come and gone and the next Buddha has yet to come, in a period when the teachings are not available any more, that type of situation is not good either.
(36) Fifth of the eight “leisure defects.” A remote place is any place where the Dharma has not spread or is not easily accessible. Commonly translated as the land of barbarians.
(37) Sixth of the eight “leisure defects.” Wrong view means not having faith in the Buddha’s doctrine, which prevents us from practicing. Examples include not believing in past and future lives and not believing that our actions and experiences are related by cause and effect.
(38) Seventh of the eight “leisure defects.”
The very last leisure defect is if one is born severely mentally or physically challenged. In this case, even if we had all of the other conditions such as there being a Buddha and the dharma teachings being accessible and so on, none of that would mean anything because of one’s physical or mental impairment.
In this life if we keep bad samaya or wrong view with teachers, the consequence will be rebirth in a situation where we will not have access to Dharma teachings. We must be very careful and purify all we have accumulated as negative karma related to such things. And of course, the conditions in the three lower realms do not favor any Dharma practice regardless of whether there is a Buddha who has come to teach or whether the Dharma is flourishing.
Another unfortunate circumstance is when we are born as a barbarian with a view that finds believable the idea of taking the life of another being as a religious act. The taking of life, causing harm to others and making other beings’ life miserable are treated as virtuous deeds by beings classified as barbarians. Although physically human, the conduct and values of barbarians are totally animal, so much so that, among these people, there is rampant incest like some getting married to their mother and so on.
Regarding wrong view, there are some 360 documented wrong views. Deviations from mainstream Buddhist beliefs are what are called wrong views. As recorded in the sutras, during the time of the historical Buddha, there were many cases of people with strong negative views towards Gautama Buddha, and his teachings were seen totally in the wrong way. There are many examples of such beings that later transformed and became the Buddha’s followers.
When we are born in any of these really dark and gloomy “leisure defect” situations, we do not really have the freedom to practice dharma. Conversely, when we are not born with these defects, we have what are called the “eight leisures”.
It is difficult to appreciate the absence of suffering without having experienced the sufferings oneself, and that is the case with these eight leisures. We do not appreciate the leisures that we have. It would help to go through these teachings and investigate by saying, “What would it be like if I was born in this situation or that situation?” and all the rest of it. Try to bring these situations in your mind and appreciate the leisures that you have right now.
I am a happy person because I really appreciate the leisures that I have. For me, not being in prison is leisure in itself. For all these reasons people see me as a happy person and, indeed, I am a happy person. When I look at my students in this wonderful country with amenities and opportunities, you should be happy that you have the chance to practice dharma and, if you have problems, then compare these problems with the eight leisure defects. That will make you happy.
The Ten Endowments
Now we turn to the Ten Endowments. They are of two types: personal and impersonal endowments. There are five personal endowments.
- The first is being born as a human being. Again, be happy about it. It is very wonderful that you are not born as something else.
- Second you are born in a situation where there is Dharma. Again feel happy about it.
- Third all your senses are intact. Feel each and every one of them and be happy about it.
- Fourth you are born as a human being who can distinguish between right and wrong. It is right to receive teachings. It is right to have devotion to the Lama. The fourth personalendowment means not having a deviated mind, or in other words having a mainstream Buddhist mentality.
- The fifth endowment means having devotion to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
The five Impersonal endowments are those situations brought about by external causes and conditions that are conducive to our Dharma practice.
- We need to have been born in a situation where a Buddha has come, and since it happens to be the case, we have the first endowment.
- Even though the Buddha may have come that is not enough unless the Buddha has taught the Dharma, but we are in a situation where the Buddha did indeed teach the Dharma, so we have the second.
- Okay, Gautama Buddha did come and he did teach but what if his teachings were totally wiped out? What if there was not a word of Dharma teaching right now? However, that is not the case, so we have the third of these endowments.
- Now what if the teachings were available, yet we did not practice because we did not see any need to practice? But that is not the case, since we see samsara as suffering and see the need to practice. Because we have taken up practice, we have the fourth endowment (39).
- Finally, we could not claim to be practicing Dharma if we did not have a Lama who was helping us develop loving kindness and compassion in our hearts. But that isn’t the case. Our Lama is helping us develop Bodhicitta in our minds, and so we have the fifth endowment.
(39) The fourth endowment, as presented here, is reconstructed from the explanation in the root text. Rinpoche’s explanation on the fourth was not recorded due a mechanical error.
Long ago, a countless number of Buddhas came and taught, and many such periods came and went. In the dark ages, during the periods when there is no Buddha, we do not have access to the Dharma teachings unless, of course, we are born in a Pure Land. There were also other times, during another period when a countless number of Buddhas came in succession and taught and, after that period elapsed, there were again many dark ages for many kalpas.
At the dawn of this particular kalpa, the three thousand world systems in which we currently are were nothing but a huge ocean of existence in which there miraculously appeared a lotus flower with a thousand petals. The gods saw this wonderful sign and concluded that, in this kalpa, a thousand Buddhas will come in succession to teach sentient beings. A lot more can be said about the future but the important thing is to appreciate here and now that being born as a human being with leisures and endowments is something very, very rare.
Try to develop a thorough appreciation of the Four Mind Reversals through reading and contemplation. Mahamudra and the Great Perfection are really lofty sounding words, but first focus on the Four Mind Reversals. Rejoice about this human birth at this time in this kalpa in which a thousand Buddhas will come because, if you cannot appreciate this right now, later it will be something like dying of thirst in front of a huge ocean.
Entering the path of Dharma to meet the needs of this current life is not the proper way to enter Dharma. Nor is it proper to enter the path of Dharma due to fear of what might happen in the next life. Entering the path to liberate one self and others because you cannot see any other point in continuing samsara is the right attitude. Practice dharma for the benefit of all, which includes oneself and others. Keep this dual motivation of your own liberation and the liberation of all sentient beings.
There are many kinds of teachings and transmissions, but loving kindness and compassion is the backbone of all of them. Without Bodhicitta your practice cannot be of any use to anyone. To experience the essence of Dharma, you absolutely need to have a spiritual guide who can see through the core of all traditions and practices and can impart his or her experiential understanding to you.
To illustrate this there were three Dharma brothers who went to seek advice from Lama Atisha and asked him if it would be better for them to seek academic knowledge or to follow the pith instructions of the teacher. Lama Atisha replied, “It will be much better to follow the pith instructions of your spiritual teacher.” Then the brothers asked why that was the case and Lama Atisha replied “Even if you can recite from memory all the Buddha’s teachings contained in the Three Baskets, without actually experiencing the teachings through practical instructions, all of that will be useless because your mind and academic understanding will not connect.” Then the three Dharma brothers asked if it would be enough to practice the Three Vows whole-heartedly with their body, speech and mind. Lama Atisha again replied “No” and they asked “Why.” Then Atisha explained “Abiding by the Three Vows would be meaningless without developing a sense of futility of existing in samsara; also the merits of practicing whole heartedly with your body, speech and mind would be useless without knowing how to dedicate them to perfect enlightenment.”
The point is that, without understanding the futility of remaining in samsara, we will never be able to put an end to cyclic existence or experience the essence of the teachings. Develop this sense of futility by contemplating the sufferings in each of the six realms of existence. Right now we have this tendency to think that while there is much to be endured there also is a lot to be enjoyed. This is indicative of the attachment to one self and the worldly life and, if we do not reverse this mind, this imprint will be carried forward into the next life.
Although we may physically be in samsara, in our mind set we should be aspiring to put an end to cyclic existence. If we really look at birth, old age, sickness and death, these are all realities we all have to face. Right now we may be healthy and strong but soon we will be old and frail and there will be nothing to enjoy in the next birth.
Je Gampopa has gone so far to say, “Never mind the sufferings of the six realms of existence, even if you just focus on the sufferings of the birth process. That alone is compelling enough to want to do something with utmost urgency to put an end to rebirth in samsara.” We hear about children being born all the time but are not really sensitive to the sufferings that these little infants go through. If we can do this, it will help us develop this sense of urgency to put an end to cyclic existence in samsara.
Je Gampopa has also emphasized the importance of dedication. It is said that virtuous deeds collected over hundreds of kalpas through body, speech and mind can be lost by generating aggression only once. What this means is that if we do not dedicate the merits then we will loose them. If we recite OM MANI PADME HUNG even once, immediately dedicate the merits for the benefit of all sentient beings. Reciting OM MANI PADME HUNG means generating love and kindness – that’s all there is to it. You do not want to waste your merits, so each time you generate love and kindness make sure to dedicate them.
Next, the worldly concerns – it is extremely important to make sure that our dharma activities are not plagued by worldly concerns such as thinking we are so scholarly or diligent or famous or whatever. Being elated when someone praises us or feeling bad when someone blames us or feeling good when someone offers us the high seat and so on – make sure that you do not succumb to these kinds of temptations. We in the Kagyupa tradition always supplicate not to be tempted by these (40). This would be difficult to appreciate right now but actually is a very important point because once we succumb to these kinds of worldly ego boosting things there immediately will be jealousy and aggression because then the competition starts.
40.As a prayer states: “May thoughts of fame, reputation, wealth, honor and concern for this life not arise for even a moment.”
I know my negative karmic imprint is being cleansed
Patrul Rinpoche has this to say about the eight worldly dharmas:
I dislike happiness but I like suffering.
Whenever there is happiness
it causes the five poisons to arise.
Whenever there is suffering
I dislike people praising me and like when they put me down.
When they praise me
I become proud and my ego is boosted.
When people put me down
I look at myself and clearly see my own faults.
The Eight Intrusive Circumstances and the Eight Incompatible Propensities
We have talked about the eight leisures and the ten endowments and how they relate to our opportunity to practice Dharma. Here there is a very important teaching by Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjampa (41) about sixteen additional conditions that come in two groups of eight that preclude any opportunity to practice Dharma. The first group of eight (42) is different circumstances that impede our dharma practice and have to do with the immediate circumstances. The second group of eight (43) is conditions that lead us away from Dharma.
(41) The recording attributes this portion of the teachings to Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjampa who appeared in Longchenpa’s many visions. However, according to the root text, the source of this portion of the teachings is Longchenpa himself.
(42) Known as the Eight Intrusive Circumstances in the root text.
(43) Known as the Eight Incompatible Propensities in the root text.
The first of these additional sixteen conditions that work against us is the arising of any of the five poisons in our mindstream. What this means is even though we may be born as a human being with eight leisures and ten endowments with access to dharma teachings and what not, the moment any one of the five poisons arises in our mind it puts an end to our access to Dharma teachings because it totally upsets the mind. Whenever a negative emotion such as aggression or jealousy arises in oneself it is the same as being born in any one of those eight unfortunate circumstances (44).
(44) The eight “leisure defects,” where we do not have the leisure to practice dharma.
The second situation is when we do not have the clarity of mind so that our understanding of the teachings is minimal. There is this tendency not to want to receive teachings, not to want to investigate the validity of the teachings and not to want to sit down and actually meditate and practice these teachings. When one is in this state of affairs again one is shutting oneself away from access to dharma practice.
The third is when those who we follow have wrong views, whose attitudes and practices are totally deviated. These kinds of people are called maras. When one has the wrong view and when one’s practice is deviated, then there is no loving kindness and compassion and that vacuum gets filled with violence. Again, one effectively shuts oneself off from practicing Dharma.
The fourth is laziness. When we are overcome by laziness, although we may have this yearning to practice in your heart, the outcome is we shut our self away from access to dharma practice. This is a very negative thing.
The fifth situation in which we are effectively not available for practice arise when heavy negative deeds we have done in our past lives ripen as karmic imprints in this life. Although we want to practice dharma, we fall sick or some disaster happens, or somehow we are diverted from our intention to practice dharma.
The sixth situation is when we are under the control or servitude of others. We then do not have the time or the opportunity to practice dharma.
The seventh situation in which we are shut off from access to Dharma practice is because of past karma. We are so consumed by the struggle to survive in this world that we are distracted from Dharma practice. For example, we may have to go to work to earn wages and not have any time for Dharma practice. But then you might ask, “Aren’t we supposed to go to work? What about our food and houses?” Of course you have to, because, whatever is necessary for sustenance you have to do. The main point, however, is that although physically you may have to go to work and earn wages, at least in your mind you should keep the priority to practice dharma so that you will be able to liberate yourself and help other sentient beings. Even we Lamas have to do worldly things to the extent that we have to feed monks, and we have to look after monasteries, and we have to do all the other things to promote the dharma. That is totally given. But it doesn’t mean we have to do it physically as well as mentally. What is so important is the future; so try to have this yearning to practice dharma.
The eighth situation is when people join the Sangha community and become monks or nuns because then they will not have to work for lodging or food on the table. They see this as an easier way because worldly needs are temporarily satisfied. Again, this is very, very wrong. Although in appearance they look like dharma practitioners, in their heart there is no dharma at all.
In the next group of eight circumstances that lead us away from Dharma; the first is when we are so driven to accumulate wealth and prosperity, with so many worldly considerations like profit and loss and looking after near and dear, that we have absolutely no time for dharma practice. We feel as if bound by the rope of wealth and prosperity. Here it is very important to see if we fall under this category or happen to know of others who fall under this category. Is there any possibility of making them see their situation?
The second situation is when, due to past karma, some people are so simply nasty and aggressive that no matter what you try to do for them you cannot have any impact on these people and, therefore, they are not able to benefit from dharma. Some time ago I came across one such person and, although he did come to attend my teachings, when I tried to give him food he gave me a dirty look and clenched his fist and nearly beat me up. Then people warned me to leave him alone. Slowly he became okay, but otherwise it was dangerous. Such people, even though they meet spiritual masters, cannot benefit due to past karmic imprints.
Another instance was after the Gar Monastery was rebuilt, and many people came to be admitted as monks. My policy from the very beginning was to let everyone come in. Whoever wanted to join the monastery and become a monk was accepted. My co-lama, Lama Chime, did not agree that this was such a good idea and really wanted me to screen people, but I did not listen. So one-by-one, we started admitting everybody who wanted to come. Among them was this well-known criminal who would steal from here and there. And, of course, from day one he started stealing from here and there and there was much chaos. Some of the monks recovered their stolen property but others did not. Although the monks tried to exercise patience, they just could not keep up because he was so out of control. Finally, my co-lama said, “All right, I am willing to do everything you say Rinpoche, but in this case you see it’s my way or else I leave today.” Then we had to expel this criminal. My point is that there are some people you simply cannot make a dent in, no matter how much you try.
In the future, it is quite possible that in a center like this, there will be certain undesirable elements wanting to join the center. We must at all times let them join. We must kind of look at them as chronically sick people. It is not his or her fault that the sick person is sick. The sick person would wish nothing but the best for himself or herself. But it is due to past karma, because of causes and conditions, that he or she is sick. We who are not sick must exercise patience. We have to show loving kindness and compassion. Each time when we meet an adversary like that, each time we generate loving kindness and compassion, it is mutually beneficial. Whenever there is aggression from the other side we must extend patience and loving kindness to them and benefit is mutual.
This advice does not apply only to Dharma centers or monasteries but also in one’s own domestic situation. For example, husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, or among neighbors, whenever you have problems, and as a result suffering, you should try to understand the causes and conditions. If there is a rift, it is because of infidelity in one’s past lives. When you understand the nature of these sufferings, you will realize that they arose due to past karma and not by choice. You will not blame the sick person for being sick and, although there is a problem, you will not start pointing fingers at each other. Instead, you will generate loving kindness and compassion and capitalize on each other’s qualities.
The third situation (45) is when we do not have any kind of mind reversal in our outlook of samsara, which continues to appeal to oneself, and we constantly strive to accumulate wealth and prosperity and as a result we are not available for dharma practice.
(45) The third in the second group of Eight Incompatible Propensities.
The fourth is when we do not enter into the path of Dharma (46). We will not able to have any time for Lamas or any devotion for the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. In this case, our suffering becomes compounded. There are people who spend an awful lot of time learning activities for recreation and for name and fame. I remember once going to the sea side with A Bao (47), who pointed to some water skiers and speed-boat racers, and said to me that, if people pay as much attention to dharma practice as these people are putting into racing, they would reach enlightenment in one month! These things! Once you die, you must leave everything behind and, when you go through the bardo stages, none of these will be of any use.
(46) For any reason such as not being able to reverse one’s mind from samsara.
(47) The younger of Gar Rinpoche’s two attendants.
There was another time when my brother would get up and offer ten or eleven prostrations on a daily basis but one day, as I was expecting him to do the same, I heard some weird rhythmic sound and went to check. There he was with a sandbag hung up on one of the beams, and he was punching at the bag. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was learning to box. Then I asked him “What for?” He said so that no one can bully him. I told him that this was totally nonsense because, if someone comes with a weapon, then your boxing isn’t going to be of any use!
The fifth situation is when one’s attitude or mindset is so strongly influenced by past karmic conditioning that one continues to have a leaning towards negative deeds and hence is not available for Dharma practice. For example, if one had been a killer in many, many former lives, or a thief, that conditioning or imprint will still be incorporated into one’s attitudes.
The sixth circumstance includes people who are simply not interested in practicing dharma. There is no leaning towards Dharma practice at all, not because of some past karmic imprints as in the previous case. This category of people is simply totally indifferent. They would rather sleep than do Dharma practice and are no more interested in Dharma practice than a dog in eating grass.
The seventh includes people who receive the Self Liberation or Bodhisattva vows but did not keep their commitments and, therefore, take rebirth in the three lower realms, in which case they loose the opportunity to practice dharma. Regarding this there are some people who say it is much better not to receive an ordination than to receive and violate its precepts. This is quite untrue. It is much better to receive ordination. To whatever extent one has been able to stay within the rules and regulations of the ordination, proportionately one will derive the benefit. So it is much better to receive the ordination, even if it means that somewhere down the road one goes against the commitments.
The eighth encompasses those people who are practicing Vajrayana and violate the samaya with one’s Lama or with one’s Dharma brothers and sisters. It is very difficult for such people to have the opportunity to practice dharma.
These just outline of some of the faults that one can have. It is important for all of us – lay leaders, high Lamas and Dharma practitioners – to investigate ourselves as to whether or not we have any of these faults, which is why these additional teachings are incorporated in The Words of My Perfect Teacher. When we do find these faults, it is important to overcome them by making amends and taking corrective actions.
PRECIOUS HUMAN LIFE REVISITED
To emphasize once again that this kind of a human life with eight leisures and ten endowments is extremely difficult to get, Patrul Rinpoche goes on to illustrate this with an example. He says that the three lower realms from the six realms of existence is something like a samsaric ocean so huge and deep and that three higher realms of existence are somewhat like a wooden plank that is floating on the surface of this gigantic samsaric ocean. We see a countless number of marine life, some huge and other tiny, all of whom have the same kind of Buddha nature and feelings and sensations as we humans do, with the only difference beings all these beings neither understand what to incorporate in their life that is good for them nor do they understand what is bad for them. All these marine life, all sentient beings, are represented by a turtle that is totally blind in this gigantic samsaric ocean. And this turtle comes to the surface once every hundred years. Now imagine that this wooden plank has just one hole in the middle and how difficult it would be – the chances of this blind turtle who comes to the surface just once every hundred years sticking its neck right through the hole in this single wooden plank which is constantly being swayed here and there by karmic winds in this gigantic samsara – the chances are very small. The Buddha said that being born as a human being is even more difficult than that.
This is just a simple example, but there are also numerical comparisons about how rare this human life really is. It is said that if the number of beings in the preta realms are as many as the stars that can be seen in day time, then the number of beings in the hell realms are as many as stars that can be seen in the night sky, and that if the number of beings in the animal realms are as many as the stars that can be seen in day time, then the number of beings in the preta realms are as many as stars that can be seen in the night sky. And there are a countless number of beings in the animal realms, more than the number of grains that are discarded after brewing chang (48).
(48) Chang is Tibetan beer.
All these examples are just illustrations given to us by the Buddha. We ourselves can verify that there are many, many beings in the animal realm. All we have to do is go out there and look at a small anthill. The number of ants in just one anthill is much more than the people living in the Nangchen district (49). If you can find a larger anthill, you will count more ants than the number of people in an average city in the United States.
(49) The district in Tibet in which Rinpoche was born.
All these births come about because of the three poisons. The inhabitants of the hell realm are born there because of aggression. The ones in the preta realms are born there because of stinginess. Beings who taken birth as animals are born there due to ignorance. All living beings, including the ants, want peace and happiness and don’t want aversion, but they don’t know how to go about achieving what they want to achieve.
For the benefit of sentient beings, Buddha has given this example of how few the human beings are in comparison to other beings. Imagine a big snowstorm with many countless snowflakes and you stretch out your big thumb into the storm. However many snow flakes that will fall on the nail of your big thumb is the size of the human population in comparison.
Among the comparatively very few human beings, if you really think hard, how many are available for dharma practice with all the eight leisures and the ten endowments? This will give you some proper perspective. When you go through this analysis and finally realize just how fortunate you really are, there will be a surge of rejoicing in oneself. With all the eight leisures and ten endowments, if now you do not turn to Dharma practice, that really would be a big waste of opportunity. It would be like living an empty life, a hollow life, a useless life.
There is a very important set of quotations in the Words Of My Perfect Teacher.
To come across a precious jewel
Is nothing compared to finding this precious human life.
Look how all those who are not saddened by samsara
Fritter life away!
To win a whole kingdom
Is nothing compared to meeting a perfect teacher.
Look how those with no devotion
Treat their teacher as their equal!
To be given command of a province
Is nothing compared to receiving the Bodhisattva vows.
Look how those with no compassion
Hurl their vows away!
To rule over the universe
Is nothing compared to receiving a tantric empowerment
Look how those who do not keep the samayas
Jettison their promises!
To catch the sight of the Buddha Is nothing compared to seeing the true nature of mind. Look how those with no determination Sink back into delusion!
As the quotation explains, being born as a human being is by far better and worthy than finding a wonderful gem. I have been told that you can buy very expensive gems. Let’s say that you have a gem that is worth a million dollars. You sell it and bring your million dollars home. With that, you build a house and perhaps open a store. Then what? You are going to be engaged in worldly activities and completely make yourself unavailable for dharma practice. So what does this most expensive gem bring you? Nothing but suffering.
But Buddha himself says that human life is precious. It is “Rinpoche,” meaning precious. The reason why Buddha says that human life is “Rinpoche” is because Bodhicitta is precious. Human life by itself is just a corpse, which is not precious. What is precious in a human life is Bodhicitta. There are two – one relative Bodhicitta and the other Absolute Bodhicitta – the Buddha said so. Having been born as a human being if you do not practice Dharma, if you do not practice Bodhicitta, then obviously this life is no good. Bodhicitta, I have said again and again, simply stated, is love. We all have love, and that’s why we are all so precious.
A classic example of someone who makes the fullest use of this precious life with all the leisures and endowment is Geshe Chengawa, who never slept and always, always, practiced. It is said that Geshe Chengawa recited the Miyowa mantra one hundred million times. He just simply wouldn’t go to sleep because human life is too precious, and there is no time to waste. And then another Geshe came to him and said, “Hey, look here, you really have to take a break. Why don’t you just go out for some fresh air and give yourself a break.” And Geshe Chengawa replied, “No, there simply isn’t any time to give myself break because human life is too precious and I must practice”.
One of the former Garchen Rinpoches, Gar Chokyi Nyima, was such a very, very devoted practitioner that he recited the Chakrasamvara mantra 130 million times. When Chakrasamvara was fully propitiated, it is said that Gar Chokyi Nyima had the power to fly and perform all kinds of miracles.
Here there is a very auspicious stanza from the wonderful Patrul Rinpoche. This is his aspiration prayer on behalf of all sentient beings.
Although I have won these freedoms,
I am poor in Dharma, which is their essence
Although I have entered the Dharma,
I waste time doing other things.
Bless me and foolish beings like me
That we may attain the very essence
of the freedoms and advantages.
The essence of the eight leisures and the ten endowments is loving kindness and compassion. So when we leave this body and when we go yonder what we carry with us is loving kindness and compassion. That is something we carry forward. We must ask ourselves, “Have I loving kindness and compassion to carry with me in my next life?” So a great deal is said but when you sum it up it’s very, very easy. What we all need take with us in our next life is loving kindness and compassion. That is very, very easy to understand, and something for which we should all strive.
CONTINUE YOUR STUDY
I am just skimming through these pages, and there are many things in here that I myself will not be able to teach you a great deal because I am not all that good with semantics. I try to practice. Traga Rinpoche will be coming here to teach. He is indeed a sublime teacher. You can just carry on from here, little by little, and then you will have other teachers to teach these things. It is very wonderful that you can come to listen and receive these teaching from me and you will receive the rest of the teaching from Traga Rinpoche and others.