We humans require many things, have many things to accomplish,

and so forth. But it is clear no matter how much we have or

wherever we are, there is not enough; always there is some more

requirement, always dissatisfaction. Through our experience the

truth is very clear in what Lord Buddha said about samsara's

entirety being nothing but suffering nature.


So what we can do? The one thing common to all is everyone wishes

to be free from suffering and wishes to have happiness. And for

the sake of this everyone is making effort in worldly spiritual

or other ways. But no matter what we do there is no end to

suffering and no gain of the happiness we seek.


So how can we get this? Lord Buddha teaches that every sentient

being possesses buddha-nature. The true nature of our mind is

pure. Right from the beginning it is never stained with

obscurations of any form. Therefore if we try we can attain



At the moment we do not see this buddha-nature, being completely

covered with obscurations. But the obscurations are not within

the nature of the mind. If they were they could never be

eliminated. For example the nature of coal is black, so no matter

how much you wash it, coal will never become white. Due to dirt

the whiteness of a white cloth is not seen, but with correct

methods we can wash then see the actual colour. Similarly the

obscurations in our minds are only at the outer level and with

the right methods, could be eliminated. Therefore if we work hard

following the Dharma path we can become fully enlightened



For these reasons, the most important thing is spiritual

practice, because all other things such as material wealth or

power are only beneficial within this lifespan. The day we

leave this world we have to leave everything behind - our

wealth, friends, even our precious body. Only consciousness is

left, and when it leaves all we can rely on is spiritual



When we face major problems, there is a vast difference between

the person who has spiritual ideas and the one who does not. When

the person without any spiritual assistance faces such

sufferings they are in a desperate situation and have to rely on

other very wrong methods, perhaps having to take extreme

measures. One of the basic teachings of Buddha is that everything

created by cause and conditions is impermanent. And any actions

connected with defilements are sufferings. So when we face such

problems it is obvious it is not something just happening to us,

but impermanence and suffering are the nature of existence



When one understands that, even though the problem may be the

same, the person who has spiritual assistance is ready to face

it because he knows it's the nature. Due to this it lessens the

mental burden. And when one's mental burden is lessened outer

physical suffering is also, because mind is the boss and the

body like a servant. If the mind is happy, even one could be in

the poorest conditions but still be happy. And if the mind is not

happy even one has the best facilities still one has a lot of

misery. So since the mind is the most important, to give us

strength to face the challenges of suffering even for this life,

the most important thing is Dharma practice.


Although we are all human beings, each one has a different mind,

different defilements and so forth. In order to suit every level

of our minds the Buddha bestowed an enormous amount of teachings.

One kind of teaching is not enough. Just as we require many medi-

cines in order to cure the different types of disease, similarly

in order to help the limitless sentient beings, the Buddha also

gave many many teachings.


Generally speaking there are two different types of followers -

the followers who wish to follow the smaller goal, and the

followers who wish to follow the greater goal. That is why we

have the two yanas of hinayana and mahayana. Although the

hinayana path has many teachings, what in essence is most

important is not to harm any sentient being. If one harms any

sentient being physically or mentally, it is not right.


The mahayana path is not only non-harming but also benefitting

as much as one can, because each and every sentient being is like

ourself. From our own experience we can learn how much we wish to

be free from suffering and wish to have happiness. From tiny

insects to the most intelligent humans up to the deva realms,

every sentient being has the same feeling: all wish to be free

from suffering and to have happiness. Therefore it is not proper

just to think of oneself, because oneself is one person and

others are countless. Between one and many which is more

important? The many is more important. Besides that, on selfish

thoughts good things never arise - only sufferings arise.


Shantideva said, "All sufferings in this universe came from

caring for oneself." If we think of ourself we have jealousy,

pride, stinginess, desire, hatred etc. All impure thoughts

arise, and any actions created with these impure thoughts create

only sufferings. Just as from a poisonous root anything that

grows is poison, similarly any actions created from these de-

filements are only suffering. So when we think of ourselves only,

all we can achieve is more suffering.


Shantideva also said that all the happiness in this universe came

from wanting others to be happy. If we wish others to be happy

then all the good things, all the qualities come, just as if a

root is medicinal, anything that grows from it is medicine.

Similarly on the basis of loving-kindness and compassion,

wanting to help other sentient beings, any actions that are

created are happiness. That is why the root of the mahayana

teachings is loving kindness and the compassion. Therefore we

must try in every way to cultivate loving-kindness and



However merely having compassion is not enough, we must rescue

sentient beings from suffering and put them onto the path of

happiness. But at the moment we ourselves are not free, we do not

have full knowledge or full power. We are completely bound by our

karma and defilements. So how can we help? The sole most effec-

tive way to help sentient beings is to attain perfect

enlightenment, because having attained perfect enlightenment then

even during a single moment we can rescue countless sentient



This perfect enlightenment does not arise without proper cause

and conditions, and that is following the mahayana path. First

is to have a very sincere wish to attain the perfect

enlightenment, then one practises, the main thing being method

and wisdom. In order to fly one needs two wings. Similarly in

order to attain enlightenment one needs two: the method to

realise the wisdom, and the wisdom itself. And they depend on

each other. Method means to accumulate merit like generosity,

moral conduct, patience, endeavour, and concentration. Loving-

kindness and compassion will only suppress faults because the

main fault is self-clinging, and these method practices only

supress self-clinging. In order to completely dig out the root of

self-clinging we require the wisdom that completely eliminates

it, and for this we must have concentration. With these two

together we will be able to attain perfect enlightenment.


Many people say it's very difficult to practise Dharma

particularly in big cities where there is so much distraction

and busyness. However, Lord Buddha gave many teachings, the

purpose of which was to tame our wild minds. It is due to our

wild mind being so involved with defilements, that from the

begining we have been caught in the realm of existence and

suffer. We've already suffered so much in the past, are still

suffering and furthermore if we do not work now we will

continuously experience suffering. So therefore the Buddha gave

teachings involving many different forms of practising, but all

these are to tame our minds.


The sanskrit word "dharma" has many different meanings but the

word generally means to change, to change our impure or wild

mind that is so involved with the defilements, to change it to

the right path. So every practice we do if it doesn't change,

(although of course even just doing the practice has benefit), it

is not so effective. In order to be effective, we must see

whether the practice we are doing really makes a difference in

our mind or not.


If it changes our mind, then if we use it in the right way we

could be the busiest person in the busiest city but still be a

very good Dharma practitioner because everything we see and do,

everyone we associate with, gives us a chance to practise Dharma.


For example when travelling in cities and noticing many changes,

that is impermanence. When we see so much suffering, we are

experiencing the Dharma that Buddha tells us, ie that

everything is suffering. The fact we actually see it with our own

naked eyes, means we also learn from that. When we associate

with people we have a chance to help, to practise compassion.

When people disturb or are angry with us, it gives a chance to

practise patience. So if we could utilize our everyday life, then

everywhere when we are travelling, at work or at home, we could

use it in practising Dharma.


From these different experiences it will help us to understand

deeper, and how important it is to practise Dharma. Higher

meditations like concentration and insight are very important.

But in order to reach that level, the basic foundations such as

the difficulty of obtaining the precious human birth,

impermanence and death, the cause of karma, and the suffering of

samsara - ie the four common foundations - are very important.

These you can learn from a teacher and read in books.


However to gain knowledge is not enough. If we have known it

for a long time but it hasn't made any change in us, we still

remain the same person. We still have anger, we still cannot

practise Dharma. Although we must have heard the difficulties

of obtaining the precious human birth a hundred times, if it

hasn't made any change - we are still in the same level, we still

have the defilements, we still are not practising. Why? Because

we do not experience it.


So, knowing it and through contemplation having the experience,

are two different things. One may know many teachings but if one

doesn't practise, if one doesn't use it in one's daily life, then

it is not right. For example the purpose of making delicious food

is to eat it. If you make but don't eat it there is no point!

Similarly knowing Dharma is to utilize it in our daily life. To

do this we have to use many different methods including our daily



With these basic foundations, if we could not only understand

everything we see as a teaching but have an inner feeling, inner

urge, then we would not waste our time. We would definitely make

every effort, just as people in prison have constantly only one

thought, "when can I get out of this? " When you have this real

sincere desire to practise Dharma your inner higher meditations

will generally arise.


First to have the basic foundations depends on our merit. In

past lives due to accumulating merit, we are born in this life

as human beings, have the good fortune to hear the Dharma, and a

chance to practise. Similarly in order to have real inner

feeling about spiritual practice depends on the merit we have. So

at the same time we must accumulate merit through prayers,

devotion to the Guru and to the Buddha Dharma Sangha, and through

practising loving-kindness and compassion to all sentient

beings. In this way when our merit increases also our wisdom

increases, and these two go together. When the merit is fully

built up the wisdom will also come, and with the merit and wisdom

together one will be able to succeed in the path.


A talk by © His Holiness Sakya Trizin

at Jamyang Meditation Centre, 3/10/91)