Explaining the practice of Mahayana Buddhism and answering your questions will be the aim of this teaching; and the questions do not have to be about what I am specifically teaching. This will be good for yourself and others.
We can also have some understanding and not practice at all, like me. In Tibet, we saw a great lama with more than 10,000 monks and nuns. He tried to teach us, “On my nose you will see a white AH, can you see it? Look here! I am so sad that you cannot see it! Look, here is the Chenrezig!” - and we could not see it. “Look in my fotos!” Then he gave a high and deep teaching.
Of me, he said, “He has studied a lot but no practice, no experience!”
I have studied and received lots of teaching, but he said that if you do not practice it is of no use.
So we can understand, but not practice. We can that we don’t practice - that’s up to us - but the first step is to understand how to practice. Then if we practice maybe there is something happening. If we don’t practice, of course nothing much will happen (Laughs). The understanding of the practice is rather easy. I don’t know if you can say Buddhism is complicated. You can say complicated, if you like, because it’s a very vast subject. It can be a very vast subject. You can spend many years or many lives to study every part of it and still you cannot finish it.
But it’s not necessary to have all that information to practice on your own. If someone has to become a lineage holder, then yes; but if you just need to practice on your own, you don’t need to know everything about everything.
Some people think that Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are totally different things. It’s not completely different things. It’s important to understand that when people make categories and try to define things like speaking of Mahayana and Theravada etc. it’s a way of categorizing - but it is all inter-related and interconnected. There is nothing strictly this and nothing else. It’s all one. It’s graded, like a building which has the foundation, then the first floor etc. but it is one building, and one floor is built on the other and without those foundations there is nothing left on the top.
Vajrayana has Mahayana as its basis. Mahayana has Theravada, also known as Hinayana or Shravakayana - which is the better name. It’s all there and not separate.
That is important to understand.
Buddha taught different paths to different people and did not feel he had to teach the same path to all the people, “This is the right path and all others are wrong!” he never said that. Path means road and a road can be not just one. A road going this way or that way is still a way. From here to here is also a way. Any way is not the ultimate. A way does not have to be just here. It depends on the person, and it depends where we are.
Therefore, everything does not have to be exactly the same. What is good for me and what leads me in that direction is a good thing. It does not have to be ultimately the best or ultimate thing. The way is like that. Buddha said different people need different ways because of “where I am” and “the way I can practice,” many different ways, situations. Maybe I understand this but not that; maybe I can practice this but not the other. What is good for me is a good way. Even a teaching which may be high and excellent may not be suitable because I don’t understand it.
All the ways - it’s not that others are incorrect. It does not mean that there are no wrong ways, and that you cannot take a bad way. But the good way can be many; and therefore the Mahayana is not the only thing, and that first you must do this and do this and do this. We need to understand what the important thing for us is, and how much we can understand, and what is beneficial for us.
The practice is myself. It is about how to transform myself – from the Buddhist point of view. Some think that the Buddhist way is to get enlightenment or to get free from the world, or something like that. It’s not necessarily like that. It’s not that “I am a Buddhist and I must have that and I must seek enlightenment” even if I have no clue what enlightenment is about. The understanding should be, “What is it that is the most important for me? The deepest wish I have? The purpose, the highest goal that is deep in my heart?” to try to find that out is very important from the Buddhist point of view.
Not that somebody comes, like your teacher, and says, “You must work for the benefit of beings! You must get enlightenment!” That way wouldn’t work.
On that basis, we talk about motivation. And Mahayana speaks a lot of motivation. And that motivation is not that Buddha or lama came and said, “You must have this motivation!” That’s not the way. You say yes, but you don’t believe it.
We need to see what we really wish. That is the motivation. It’s not about creating a motivation. It’s about realizing what is our motivation, deep motivation. And then, to find out whether that motivation or that goal or wish, or deep purpose and then, the way we are trying to do things: Does it come together?
It’s like doing anything else. Every work is like that. If I have a goal, first I have to find out what it is. Or if I have a project, what do I want? I have to know why and for what I want to build a house or a shop. What do I need it for? Do I need a big house with ten rooms, or just one room? I need to know what I want, and then I need to find out what is needed for that.
We have to think in the same way.
When we say “May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness,” it’s not just saying that Buddha said we have to think like that; we have to find out deeply how important it is for us.
Therefore, the basic thing is that we all, there is no one who does not want to be happy, free from suffering, free from pain, happy, and have well being. Even those who do harm to themselves, if they look at their wishes, they wanted something good for themselves. It is said that even people that commit suicide wish to free themselves from a pain, or from some suffering. Whether that will succeed in that or result in freeing them is another matter. But the motivation is that.
Many people have a death wish it is said. But I think they want to be free. Most of the time, what we wish and what we do, does not correspond. We wish something and do something else which does not actually result in that wish. That’s the wrong way. Right and wrong way is differentiated by that: We want something, and then, when our action is actually leading toward that, that is the right way. We want something but our action is leading to something different, that’s the wrong way. The difference between the right way and the wrong way is just that.
The first thing is to find out the motivation or wish. This is not something I say and you have to believe. This is something that we all have to deeply feel and understand and this is what we wish. It is not difficult.
No one want so have pain and suffering and all want happiness, peace and joy, no problems. We want that others have that and that they don’t suffer. We don’t feel good when we see others suffer or in trouble. Sometimes we don’t help and run away, but we don’t feel good about them suffering. Nobody likes to see them having pain.
In short, we want to be happy and we want the same for others. There is nobody who is not like that, in a way. Therefore, the ultimate motivation is that we wish to find a way to find lasting peace for ourselves and others. How is it possible to find a lasting - not just for a short time – nice, happy, problem free? That is what we want to find out and that would be the ultimate goal.
Then we need to see if there is a way or not.
That is the general approach from the Buddhist point of view. It’s not about - the purpose, from the Buddhist point of view, is not about someone telling you, “This is your purpose” and I try to find out the purpose that has been given to me. The purpose is for me to understand what is the ultimate, deeply felt thing is, wish. That’s the basic thing about motivation.
In Mahayana Buddhism we talk about motivation being to find a way to lasting peace and happiness, not just for ourselves, but for every other being who is, like myself, trying to find that. That would be the best and highest goal or motivation.
If we put it as a personal goal, if you want to say, or direction, that is called bodhicitta - I wish to do something and find a way to be free from suffering and find lasting peace and happiness and that I can help others get that. And I do that because it is the best thing that can happen. And that is sometimes called enlightenment.
How is it possible to have this lasting peace for myself and others? That is the whole point. It does not mean that we should not get good things for others temporarily. Of course we should. Within the final goal, we should do anything that is good for us and others, right now. Good for ourselves tomorrow, good for us next year, good for ourselves; without harming others. We should try to help out others in the short term, and then increase that, a little bit more and a little bit more. That’s the idea of how to help ourselves and others.
The final thing is – how is it possible to have lasting peace for myself and others. If I find it for myself, I can help others.
If I can advance just a little, that is good. I need not have the ultimate goal realized to be of help.
Towards that end to find peace and happiness, we need to try to see this carefully and with understanding.
The main thing – outside things cannot bring lasting peace and happiness, other situations. Of course we have a nice room, company, food – but does that bring lasting peace and happiness. Not necessarily. Even if we have that continuity of the best food, our happiness is not dependent outside. It must be from within because things change on the outside. Therefore it must be from within, from our own experience. We have to change the way of experiencing. This is very important. Do you know what I am saying?
Generally we think that we are unhappy because we are missing something. True, some things make our life easier, but we will not get lasting peace from them. People are not satisfied by having things.
There is a story in mythology. There was once a king who one day had a mole on his body. It got bigger and bigger and then it burst and from that an egg came out. Then the egg was kept and it hatched and a baby came out. The baby had special powers and he later became king and then emperor of the world. He had miraculous powers and was a genius. He fought with the gods and shared the throne with Indra, the king of the gods; but he was not satisfied and was jealous of Indra; even though he had conquered the heavens it was not enough.
This is to depict that mind cannot be satisfied by having, and it is the same with ourselves.
By having satisfaction we can be happy. You cannot have peace by having a peaceful room. You need a peaceful mind. The room can be peaceful and your mind agitated. Happiness and joy must be from within. If that is there, then it come out and reflects. So we need to work on that level, on our mind, our way of reacting and feeling, our habitual tendencies. Then there is no limitation because it is not dependent on something being present.
The spiritual path is working on ourselves, our own reactions.
The whole Buddhism is a spiritual path. In one way, Buddhist – sometimes it is regarded as a religion, but it doesn’t matter in Buddhism if something is created by a creator or this or that or not. It’s another story. What is important is how you can work on yourself. When people talk about religion - they cannot categorize Buddhism. When I am asked what my opinion is, or what the Buddhist opinion is about this and that, I say, “I don’t know.” And I don’t really think Buddhism has an opinion about everything. It doesn’t have to be. I can give my own opinion, if you like; but that is not the Buddhist opinion. Every Buddhist has his or her opinion – of but that is not the Buddhist opinion. And there are lost of things where Buddhists do not have opinions. It’s not about the rules being like this, or the government should be like this, or society should be like this, or you have to marry like this, or you can’t marry like this. It’s not like that – that’s not the subject. The main thing, from the Buddhist point of view, is how you can work on yourself in a spiritual way. Of course, that reflects on how to be a better person; if you can work on your way of functioning in the mind, on your reactions, on your emotions, then it reflects on your way of life and how to deal with other people, as well.
Would you encourage someone to commit suicide, it they thought it would free his or herself?
No, because that’s not the solution. When they suffer a lot and want to be free from pain, it comes to their mind that they can end life with a knife. Others may think that, that person who wants to commit suicide hates himself and has a death wish; but it is the desire to be free from pain. The understanding is that, there are ways to get free. From the Buddhist point, the end of life does not end at death and will not end your pain. So you need to do something else. The pain must be dealt with in a different way. If you can do that, there is no need to kill yourself. That is the main understanding.
How can we know what the best way is for ourselves and others?
It is not necessary that there is one way. There can be some ways. We neednt find our way on our own. I need to find it but others can help and teach us. We can help each other and show each other the way. That’s why we have to ask people, listen to experiences and teachings of great beings, and then from there we find our way. You know that Buddha and others are great beings: They have given great teachings, and there are so many, we don’t have the time to go thru everything – the things we understand clearly, we say, “Yes, this can help and I can practice this. I have some understanding and it’s true”
If I understand it, then I can practice it. I think, “What I understand best, is the best way to start.” Then you can go deeper and deeper later.
How do we keep up motivation during the business of the day?
Motivation is a general attitude, what I want, my direction, my basic attitude to things. We need not remember it at all times – when we do something opposite we need to check it and put it on the direction – but it is okay. I say this because what ever practice we need not be too hard or strict, or too much pushing ourselves to become a burden. No practice should be a burden causing us unhappiness, “I have lost my motivation!” It’s no big deal. A little bit freely, a little bit awareness, a little bit discipline – but not too much. If you do it too tightly, it is too much too quickly and you will have to take the burden off sooner or later because it has gotten too heavy. Do your practice lightly and a little relaxed. If you don’t become a bodhisattva like that, it’s okay. That is very important to learn to work consistently and persistently – but not too much.
The motivation of especially Mahayana Buddhism is very much loving kindness and compassion. Our innermost wish is wanting good things for ourselves and others and we don’t want suffering.
If I wish only good for myself alone, it is not going to bring even good things for me.
However, if I try to bring good things for others, then it’s going to bring good things for me also.
The main reason is that things are inter-related.
Positive things are not just coming from me, but it is coming from everything else around me. Therefore, if I only care for myself, it is not possible even for me to get the best and happiness and things like that; because I am interconnected and dependent on many things and people.
If I think, “I want only myself for me to be happy!” I am going to be unhappy. This is very important, from the Buddhist spiritual point of view, and can be difficult to understand. The problem is, it doesn’t happen like we thought: “I wish happiness;” and then I get happiness - it’s not like that. “I don’t want suffering;” I don’t get suffering - it’s not like that either.
Actually, the deeper you go, the stronger I wish happiness - and the stronger I don’t wish suffering - causes more suffering and problems for me. There is a dilemma; we are caught in a catch 22 situation. We want happiness and to be satisfied, and to have no problems and pain; but the more we want that, the more we are intensely running away from that, the more problems we have. Because our mind, when it is in a tense situation, is already dissatisfied; and we are feeling a lack of happiness. The more we want to be free from problems, the more we suffer from them because we dislike and have aversion to them. The more we hate it the more we suffer from that situation. The less we hate, the less we suffer.
We don’t know how to be happy and satisfied and that’s the problem; that is the samsaric state of mind. We need to learn how to be balanced. We see that we need to be happy and free from suffering, but we also see that running away or to something, is not the way.
We need a practical way to reduce too much wanting to be happy, and too much not wanting to be suffering by learning to feel good in that situation itself, learning how to experience a situation in such a way – this is the deepest thing – how to learn to react so that even the negative experiences do not bother us – then, we actually have happiness and are free from problems when we learn that good experiences and painful experiences are both okay; and we know how to go through them with no great problem, then, we have learned to free ourselves; and this is done with meditation. That’s why the training of meditation is important, although it is not the only thing: We need to work on understanding, attitude, how we act for our own good and in connection with other people, how to see things clearly and deeply the way things are, to see myself clearly and all these things. That’s why about wisdom, meditation, discipline, generosity – there are six paramitas.
Some people remember stories, others remember just the other bits in a teaching, but we all seem to forget some things.
There is a lama in Spain who translates for me and takes no notes. And I can go on for one half hour and he will remember all – but if I tell a story he forgets. So there is a nun next to him who writes down all the stories for him to translate later!
The Mahayana practice is the six paramitas which is practiced with the motivation of compassion. To understand each of them, to have a complete understanding, it needs reasoning and talking and study. In the Mahayana Bodhicharyavatara, it goes through the six paramitas in detail and that is why it is so important. But we went through the paramitas last year and we will only discuss them briefly and what is relevant.
I would like to discuss meditation first, although we normally begin with generosity, giving; because it’s all about compassion and doing good for others. The giving becomes the first thing. Generosity is not only the organized way. Some think that in Buddhism there is not much charity in the conventional sense. That’s true and maybe that will come with more Germans entering Buddhism. They know how to organize things in the most difficult way – I am joking! I first heard that the Germans were very good organizers and I thought it was true. Then there was a period I thought they were lousy organizers because they spent so much time on small unimportant details that they were exhausted just starting. At the end it is nice. The German way is to discuss and fill out lots of forms and if you don’t get exhausted and get through it – then it is nice because it’s all taken care of. It’s not like that in India where they say, “No problem!” but then every time there is a new problem, and it never ends. I think the German way is better.
Anyway, in the past there was not time to talk about meditation and wisdom first so that we have time to finish.
The motivation is that I need to learn how to free myself and others from pain and suffering, and to bring lasting happiness and peace to myself and others. How I can bring that to everyone?
That can take a long time, but, of course, the quicker the better.
So I need to work on myself to be able to help others. That goes not just for meditation – also everything else. Meditation is therefore one of the most important things.
We have the dilemma of wanting to be free but the wanting makes it worse. We need to find a way, but it is not like we are shooting for a result in the far future. Meditation is more instant. It is a way of workin with your mind, with your consciousness, with thoughts and emotions, a practical way. There are two categories especially in Tibetan Buddhism, shamata and vispassana. They are really one, and making the categories can complicate things; but the basic thing is how to feel peaceful and relaxed right at this moment, how to let your mind feel okay whatever thoughts or emotions or arisings come or not.
It’s not a theory; it is a practice. But as I said, I only talk theory! I am very good at theory. I have a theory about everything. I can even teach you how to cook. In our family, we make good Tibetan food and momos – when theory is to be given, I am the one! Anyway…
Meditation is not difficult, but if we don’t know how it can be – but it is not. When people start, they try to have everything peaceful and no thoughts and that is not the way. They try not to be disturbed, not to hear, feel, not to see or smell and if something disturbs that then, “Why is this person walking on the top floor!” The problem is the way we meditate is not right.
We don’t need to change the environment. Then it is no use. Then we need to sit in a cube which is airtight where we cannot see or hear – and we have to come out and nothing has changed or is solved.
We need to see how to function happily when everything is in turmoil. That’s the object. Even if we live in a place with lots of noise and problems, and everything going wrong – even then, we can be okay. That’s the objective. That’s the exercise. If we try to create a situation where nothing is wrong - that wouldn’t work. Whatever is going on is okay. So that when we meditate sitting, walking or lying down – if I lie down, I will go to sleep in two seconds – so lying down is not the most recommended meditation style. But it’s possible. Most people sit; but regardless of the situation, you cool down, you let your mind settle down, and let all the senses open, not to close the senses - you don’t try to hear things or you don’t try to have thoughts.
Nothing like that.
You just sit and be the way you actually are. With your eyes open. With your ears open. With your nose open. With your mind open. With everything completely as normal, just as you are, all the senses open. Not restricting our thoughts and emotions, our senses; but just a little aware. You are aware and that you are sitting. There is a saying, “Let your body be your own seat and let your mind be in your body” usually we are here but our mind is all over the world and I don’t know what is going on. We are going around the world with the speed of light and we don’t know what was happening most of the time – that is the distraction.
When we are not aware what our mind is doing, that’s distraction.
When we are aware of what we are doing or what our mind is doing, that’s okay, that’s mindfulness.
I am not restricting anything but I am a little bit aware that I am here and I know that I am here. I am sitting and I am knowing that I am sitting – a little bit. If thought or emotions come, I am a little bit aware that thought and emotions come. If I am hearing, I am a little bit aware that I am hearing. Seeing, I am a little bit aware that I am seeing. But not letting and it is not a control – I am just aware – when a thought comes or emotion, I am not holding on to them, I am just letting them come and go. That is the exercise.
I sit down, very comfortably as possible, as free from tension as possible. I can decorate my room, light incense and candles, or do whatever makes us feel good – that’s another matter – but you sit comfortably. Let the thoughts and emotions go. You are aware that you are meditating but you don’t fight or follow the thoughts and emotions. We see that what arises comes and goes, whether bad or nice and peaceful feeling. We look at the mind and see that it is the nature of our mind. It is like a river with countless flowing thoughts and emotions, coming and going, and we cannot stop it. Nor do we need to fight it. We have to let it go. We have to let it flow. And if we know how to let it flow, it doesn’t bother us too much.
Therefore we need to exercise this, and when we can exercise this and have even a little bit of experience – a very difficult or bad experience or painful experience comes into our mind. First we have to do the mental things and then the physical – pain and things like that are much stronger. Mental is also physical. When they come, that’s the main thing to do: Meditation is just relaxing when things come, like letting - it’s not pushing away – letting things come and go – a thought coming, a reaction coming – they come one after the next rapidly. I need not be busy. You don’t need to recognize every thing. Just let it all go and remain relax and not restrict. When things are less turbulent you may recognize things one by one, and emotions one by one - but that is the next state. That’s why I did not want to make too much distinction between shamata and vispassana: In a way, this is both shamata and vispassana.
The first step is that you learn to relax, let thoughts and emotions come, neither fight against them or be guided or distracted by them; just be aware. We will lose our attention because 95% of the time we are distracted; so it happens again and again; suddenly we realize we were in a long story line, or reacting in a way and we were not aware. It naturally happens. Don’t bother too much about it. Don’t be discouraged.
Its not that all thoughts and emotions come and go; some keep on coming. It’s not “staying” although you can say “staying” - it’s “keeps on coming” because the thoughts and emotions are momentary. Even then, it’s okay, we don’t reprimand ourselves for not being able to let go, “I didn’t know how to let go!” When something pleasant or unpleasant keeps on coming, we relax in it – relaxing means, we don’t mind it. You just let it be. If it is there and you can let it be, that is relaxing. When you can do that and be aware, then usually it goes away very quickly.
Also important - it’s not like a unpleasant thing comes and then an pleasant thing comes next – it’s not like that. You can have one unpleasant thought or emotion after the next. Our mind is used to having negative feelings and fears. So those things come more often. But that is okay. The point is not to try to get rid of it. You relax and that is the meditation.
When you start to relax and the negatives decrease, then you fall asleep. Either something is happening or we sleep. That is not meditation and we should prevent that. That is why walking meditation can be effective. Of course, you can fall asleep on your feet but that is more difficult. Problems can also arise from overeating or being too tired. You have to see accordingly.
Referring to meditation we speak of distraction and dullness. Distraction is too many things coming up and dullness is not things coming but… (laughs). To not fall in these extremes and then, relaxing – you don’t have to try too much. It is a natural thing because our mind is awake anyway. Not running to, or running away, or falling asleep; the moment you can do that, some peace or tranquility comes.
We talk about the stability and being able to be focused, but it does not mean that your meditation is bad because your mind is moving. You can meditate even when your mind is functioning, thinking and working - that is the most important thing to learn.
In Tibetan, these two states are called jowa and nepa.
Nepa is when the mind is stable and focused on one thing, abiding.
Jowa is when your mind is working, thoughts and emotions are coming. When you can meditate within that jowa, then you can function while you are meditating, and you learn to relax and are not too distracted.
In the beginning there is more importance given to nepa, and that is why you concentrate on the Buddha, or the breath, and you let your mind settle. That is learning how to focus, and that is helpful because we are training the mind not to wander everywhere.
But that is not the only thing. While the mind is moving we can relax and that is more important because we are learning to be.
There are all sorts of instructions, but I think basically we are learning how to relax, not be distracted, not sleeping, and it is okay whatever comes. Let it come and go. We can find ourselves relaxed, not agitated – whatever happens is the thing. If you can do it for one moment, or a few seconds – it’s not like “all is going well in your life.” It’s important especially when everything is going wrong in life and everything is turned upside down.
The thing is not what is going on in our life and what is going on around us; it is how our mind is reacting; that’s the main thing. We just go directly to how the mind is working and work on that level. Not “why” and “how,” “because something is going wrong, that’s why I can’t…” something is going wrong all the time, either in our life or in the world. If everything has to be right, throughout the world in order to be peaceful, then we will never be peaceful.
So therefore it has to be on ourselves.
How important is it to check back with your teacher? If you are happy with your practice, should you check back anyway, so that you don’t get stuck?
It depends from person to person, but it’s good to discuss, if you feel you are stuck; or if you feel everything is well, that’s okay; but you can talk about your experience and understanding and see if it is okay. Sometimes you think it is okay and it is; or you think it is okay and it’s not; or that it is okay but can be improved. I don’t know; it depends. Not necessary to do it too much, maybe.
The important thing is to deal with thoughts and emotions. Even after a long period of no thoughts, the nature of mind is not to stop thinking. We need to learn to deal with thoughts and emotions so that it doesn’t matter at all. The other way is temporary: In deep tranquility you don’t have thoughts sometimes, but then you come out and you have thoughts, and you can have strong emotions that you can’t control. It is possible.
You have said if we should leave our senses open; does that contradict some sutras referring to an absorption which seems to exclude even hearing a thunderstorm while meditating?
If you are absorbed completely it is true you do not hear. If you are focused on one thing, even if your senses are open you don’t hear or see. That could happen. That happens in our daily life that we don’t hear or see things. But that in a way is a good thing, your mind can focus on one thing and it can happen for a longer period of time – but this is not necessarily the best thing. It is a good thing in a way but it does not take you beyond the samsaric state of mind, to liberation and great tranquility.
Therefore the four samadhis, in Buddhist terms, are considered within samsara and are not completely liberating.
When we first practice meditation, if we give too much attention to not having thoughts, there is a problem in that we are trying too much. It doesn’t make it easier. Even these absorptions have to be obtained with a relaxed mind with out trying, learning to be not over concentrated.
When I say senses open, it is not like we are trying to see or listen; it is not trying to. Trying to be natural, not closing or focusing.
It is not that you try not to think or have no thoughts. If you do that, it is too much. They don’t stop because you are trying. They stop when you are tranquil and when you know how to relax properly; and there is a time when there is complete peace, like a pond with no ripples, but not by trying. When we work on that, we should try not to have too much aversion towards thoughts and emotions. Learn how to let the arisings come and relax within that, and the thoughts and emotions will be calmer and less disturbing. The main thing is that whatever comes doesn’t matter and in the process you may have less and clearer thoughts, and wider and sharper senses. That is why sometimes you can see thru time and space.
Knowing the different levels in meditation can be helpful for you, because you know where you are on the path. Otherwise, you may think that you are really great when you are nothing near it; but if we have too much concept about the stages, we may have too much frustration and struggle.
The main thing is that the descriptions of meditation can be very different when you actually experience them. If some one describes a place, you get an idea, a picture of it in your mind, but when you go there 99% of the time it is not like that.
It’s different. So all descriptions are like that. The concept is different from the reality.
It’s not about changing things outside; it is about changing our way of experiencing things. What ever experiences we have, we can take it in a way which does not become a problem; and then we have a basic understanding - not the experience - of what meditation is about; and the then we really begin at the beginning. We cannot begin at a higher level. We can receive a lot of higher practices but as an experience, or practice, we have to begin where we are. All of us like high and deep teachings, the higher the better. We want advanced Dzogchen, Vajrayana etc. We insist that the lamas give us the best teachings, but when we receive it – first of all we don’t have the basis. One lama once promised to teach Dzogchen and then decided not to, and the students were upset. I said that it was not necessary and that I had received those teaching and it was not necessary. The higher I went, the further back I had to go - to the beginning. There is nothing wrong with learning the higher teachings.
It may be boring for the people to hear but, really, we just have to learn how to relax! (laughs) Starting with how to relax and let be, and that’s not easy to do. Its easy to say, and easy to have a concept about but not easy to do. Whether meditation or any practice, it is practical. Cooking; you can have the theory but it does not make you a cook. Unless you have practical training you can’t make even a cake. I tried. I like this cake called Magdalena, soft and really nice. I was told and given a list, and I went back to Sikkim and tried. In the end it was harder than a rock. Some small things matter. You never know where you went wrong. If you do it once or twice, then you know. Theory and practice are different. You need to learn by doing, by making mistakes.
You know, making mistakes is no problem, the more mistakes you make the better it is! (Laughs). Actually, one of my teachers used to say, “There’s nothing wrong if you understand it totally wrongly, just understand!” Tibetans are especially like that. We listened to the teachings and then, “Did you understand the teachings?” No questions, nothing. So he would say, “Just understand something!” If you understand totally wrongly, it’s good; because at least when someone says, “That’s not like that! It’s like this!” then, you understand. But if you didn’t understand anything before, then nothing could help you anyway.
You can make a mistake; practice is like that. You do a thing and it doesn’t work, you do something a little different, and you try something else; and after many tries, one day there is a shift, and you understand something, and you go deeper. It is the consistency of the practice. Start from the beginning. You need not change your practice doing many different meditations: That doesn’t mean that you can’t do different things; because it’s all the same anyway.
We start by learning how to relax, and focus a little, and to be mindful. Being mindful goes from the basics to the highest. It’s about being aware of the way you are or what you are. From the Buddhist point of view, the basic cause of all the problems in not seeing the way things are or the way you are. If we can deeply and fully see how the things really are, that’s called enlightenment, or wisdom, or Buddhahood. The practice is aimed at trying to see and experience things as they really are. That wisdom is not a concept of saying it must be like that. It is direct perception of how I am. That wisdom is the main object of the meditation, as well as the view. And the practice of Buddhism is aimed at that wisdom; and once we have it, the ways of reacting, the negative emotions that we have – we realize that we don’t have to react like that. That’s why, in order to learn how to deal with our negative emotions and habitual tendencies and reactions, the most important and the strongest is said to be wisdom. That wisdom is seeing ourselves clearly and directly, and that is where meditation leads to. We try to be natural, the way we are; we are not making things up. We are learning to be what we are; the most natural, basic, primordial way we are. That’s the ultimate meditation where meditation and wisdom merges. Of course, there is a lot of debate and philosophy. In Tibet debate is used as an educational too. Sometimes it is noisy and violent. Hundreds of monks talk at the same time, shouting at the top of their voice. You never get sleepy. But by debating, you can get too heady; it’s possible.
Analysing and discussing is also important, though. Mahayana says that we can analyze debate and study as much as we like. It’s not like we just take the word of our teacher. We can question, even every word of the Buddha and debate it. The Buddha’s words are divided into provisional and definitive meaning. The Even Buddha can say something, and if we look at all sides and we don’t find it exactly corresponding with the way things are with all the elements, it may not be true. Then, why did Buddha say that? Is he telling a lie? He can say something which is not completely, definitively the truth, something so that it is useful to the people – it’s not completely untrue - but it is not the complete truth; it is said for a purpose, a time, a person and it is helpful. He is keeping some of the truth in his mind; it is something that leads but not absolute truth. There are lots of teachings like that.
Then there are teachings on the absolute truth which can be argued from every side and we can’t find anything contradictory. That is the definitive meaning.
So in summary, even Buddha’s words are discussed and allowed to be, and should be analyzed. It’s not the most important thing for you whether someone is telling the truth or not, what the Buddha said, or if what is written is perfectly true or not. That I understand it is the important thing.
Therefore, if I hear something and say, “Oh, that must be true!” because someone renowned said it, does it help me if I didn’t understand? by just accepting the information? Does it help me if I didn’t digest it? If someone says later that it is not true because of this and that, then I get a doubt. I say, “Maybe, I don’t know. I thought it was true.” I didn’t really understand it. But if I had analyzed it myself and found it to be true, then after that, even if someone says its not true, I can say, “No, its not like that, its like this.” This analyzing and trying to see things clearly is very important for yourself. We have to do this in order to understand deeply, even if we think we already know something is true.
Analysis is very important according to the Buddhist point of view but those kinds of things however, are intellectual and are not the deepest experience. The deepest experience is deep, feeling, heart experience and meditation goes to that. Study is for intellectual understanding. However, meditation is also, in a way, a study, a way of finding out, to bring the wisdom, to learn how we actually are in a direct way; because we cannot just do it intellectually. Intellectually, if I make a concept, no matter how good it is it is only a concept, an idea, a theory. These theories and how we use and describe them, and the language; this is what we can debate. There are lots of studies and literature and to go thru them all would be difficult; but it is good to know that that’s for that.
Wisdom or deep understanding, to get rid of misconception, misunderstanding, and ignorance is not only intellectual understanding, but rather the depth, the meditation, the heart of understanding. There is a space for analysis, but not just that. In summary, we need to study a bit and understand and clarify, but it’s more important to work on the meditation.
As for the view, or philosophy, the two most important elements or terms are interdependence and emptiness. We all can more or less understand interdependence or interdependent arising; but it seems more difficult to understand emptiness. In a way, the understanding is nothing other than interdependence, nothing other than the changing phenomena, the causes and conditions, that things are changing; because we know that there is nothing that doesn’t change.
I change, you change, the world changes, the universe changes, everything changes; but generally when we think about change, we think about it in slow motion: “Last year, I was 53 and this year I am 54. My birthday is on this and this date. Till then, I am 54. Then, I am 55.”
If someone says, “You are 55,” you say, “I am not yet 55! I still have two and a half months!” so you think there is no change at all until your birthday. That’s why people celebrate their 20th, 40th, and their 50th birthdays. But does it happen like that? It is not like that. Time is non-stopping. If time does not stop, then change has to be non-stop. It’s not that we don’t change and then, suddenly! – it’s not happening like that. Everything is changing very quickly and momentarily, not hourly, not by minute, not by second. We think that a second is the minimum time, but it is not. Mathematically, if you look, a second is not the minimum time; because between two seconds, mathematically you can have many times, countless actually. Therefore, when it’s like that, when things are changing – when is it that it is not changing? When there is no time that is not changing, then - where is the existence of the thing? Because when it’s being changed, it’s not existing; it’s being changed. And when it is no time for it not changing, then there is no time to be existing on its own. So therefore, in a way, there is no time not changing, so therefore there’s no time which is existing. So therefore, it’s emptiness. Understand my point?
(Laughs) No? You didn’t understand my point.
Suppose - look at my hand. Now it is changing, this moment, this moment, this moment. It’s becoming something different. Is there one movement which is not changing? What is there? What is remaining? If there is nothing remaining without changing, then there is nothing there, nothing existing, if it is changing, not changing; changing, not changing etc.
If there is a time when it is not changing, then it is remaining, something there, steady; but if there is nothing like that, no time when it is standing still but continuously changing, then where is the thing? Because it’s only change; nothing. Do you understand what I’m saying (laffs)
That’s why it’s interdependent. There is nothing not changing and standing on its own. It’s there dependent - there is nothing independent, because there is nothing existing on its own; it’s interdependent arising. The whole world and phenomena is like that. It is therefore an interdependent and emptiness thing. It is a little like an illusion -my mind, body, experience, all existence in an interdependent arising, emptiness way. So therefore, things can change and all things become possible; things can become nice or nasty. All the chemistry is possible: two and two put together can be ten.
The nature of things is like that; the nature of myself is like that. What I call me is not one solid thing. It is not one; it is interdependent arising. My mind and everything else is like that; emptiness. You can call it emptiness, you can call it whatever you like; it doesn’t matter; but that’s the way it is.
If you deeply understand the way it is, appearance and emptiness, it’s not necessary to have fear and aversion, because there is no substance, no independent thing: There is nothing to be destroyed because there is nothing there. With this deep understanding, to see the true nature, the way you are, you find there is no need to feel too good or too bad about things. It’s like watching an interesting movie with lots of action. Action does not just mean fighting; it means things happening, like a nice story. When you see a movie, you know it’s not real and not happening to you, and you are interested and not afraid. You know it is a movie. If it were happening to you, you would not be so happy!
Therefore, if you knew that the way you are is like that, then it doesn’t matter what is happening: Nice things or not nice things, or emotions - you can look at it and laugh.
Longchen Namjal said in his “Seven Treasures,”
“All these things happening to my mind, all these things happening to my experience, it’s so wonderful. I laugh at it all the time!”
Terrible, problematic, different experiences – you can laugh at it if you understand it. That’s why seeing the nature of things is very important. That’s called the view or wisdom, and that’s where meditation has to lead. These two are the most important elements to liberate ourselves. If we have that experience of meditation and wisdom together, it is completely self-liberating; and in no matter what situation we may be, it doesn’t matter, and we are happy - even if we are in the middle of a thousand people coming to kill us. There are stories like this of people in Tibet who were being shot at as they happily sang songs of joy. These things can happen; you can be dying and happy and grateful.
There is a confidence that anything can happen. You can even die and it is no problem. That’s the self liberating part, the lasting peace and happiness because nothing can disturb you.
To reach that experience and understanding is not easy because of our habitual tendencies which are our habits, or the way we react: Even if we know we should not react in a certain way, we still do it! These tendencies are extremely strong and hard to get rid of.
This is important for us all to understand: I’m not going to change easily; others are not going to change easily. Even if people want to be nice, they are unable to do it all the time. Even if they want to be compassionate, they cannot be compassionate all the time. They want to be loving, but they cannot be. They want to be good, but they cannot be. It’s important to have this understanding; that’s the way it is. Otherwise we become intolerant, “Everybody should be so nice, so kind, so good!” If we have that attitude then, if someone is not so nice we react with, “That’s impossible! How can they do that!?”
We also need to be careful not to judge ourselves too harshly either. If we are afraid of making a mistake, and something goes a little wrong, we need not react with “How is this possible!?” This is important to understand: It’s not easy to change, you know?
Emptiness - is it like interdependence and change?; and why is it difficult for us to cope with the term emptiness?
It’s exactly the same as interdependence and change, if you understand it deeply. Emptiness is an English word and more or less the translation of shunyata. I think the word ‘shunyata’ was especially used to shock people. We have a very strong sense of solidity, that things are there because we can see it and feel that ‘I am here and you are there;’ and then Buddha said, “No, it’s emptiness!”
It’s not that there is nothing there. It is not nothingness; it is the understanding behind it, as I said. Because there is nothing in whatever you look at, something that is independent, therefore its nature is emptiness. It’s appearance and emptiness at the same time. Therefore everything and all phenomena are that. That’s the nature of everything: emptiness and interdependent. Because it is emptiness, therefore it’s interdependent: If it is not emptiness, this cannot be interdependent because it would be independent. If everything is independent, then it can’t be interdependent. Because everything is not independent but dependent, that’s why it’s interdependent (everyone laughs).
When you talk about seeing ourselves and seeing everything as it really is, are you always talking about seeing things in terms of emptiness and interdependence – what I consider a highly developed way of seeing - or is there an intermediate way of seeing myself as I really am?
Of course there are different levels of seeing it. You can have different words for it, and that is the conceptual word for it. It is a concept to say “I am emptiness.” You can call it whatever. You can call it Buddha nature, or Mahamudra or whatever. It comes to that understanding. What you experience is the same. What you call it can be all different things. You can call it anything you like.
We were discussing view and meditation.
The view’s approach has analysis and study where we can debate and have all sorts of opinions and continue to debate all our lives. It’s no problem. It is to sharpen your understanding and go beyond concepts. Through meditation, however, we have experience and there is no debate there.
That’s why it is often said that if two philosophers agree, one is not a philosopher. If two saints or siddhas do not agree, one is not a saint. There is realization – you talk about it in many ways. There is no end to it. In Buddhism there are many schools and it doesn’t matter that there are many schools. There is no one way for you to obtain enlightenment. When we discuss philosophical ideas, some people get the idea that there must be one way which is always right, the best way – and the rest are not right - but it is not like that. There are different schools and all are accepted.
With view/wisdom and meditation discussed we can now come down and see how they are actually practiced, how we act. Mahayana Buddhism, in a nutshell, the essence, is wisdom and compassion. Those two words include the entire practice. We were discussing the wisdom; without that there is no path and no way to liberate our thoughts and emotions and to understand the way things are. But it must be supported with compassion, which is as important or more important, in fact, than the wisdom part. In high practices like in Vajrayana, if there is no compassion, or if the compassion is not strong enough, then that practice doesn’t become the right one, even if there is some wisdom and lots of meditation.
The motivation must also be there, which we already discussed.
The compassion part is found in the six paramitas where we find generosity and dedication, and tolerance or patience. The six paramitas are the practice and include conduct, also called discipline, which is good for us and others. It is all based on compassion which in turn is based on two things: first, we try to live in a way which is not big problem for others and does not harm them; secondly we try to help ourselves and others as much as we can.
Compassion is like action. It is the motivation first because that is our attitude and how we see things. When we talk about compassion, it not like “I am a Buddhist and that I do only for others and nothing for me whether I like it or not” – that is not the idea. If you are like that, then you are a great bodhisattva; but you need not force yourself, otherwise you will only be bodhisattva for two days and then you will quit because it will be too difficult.
That’s why its called a path, or training, exercise, step by step – so you don’t expect yourself to be the greatest compassionate one, right from the beginning; but you see that it is important to generate and have that practical, engulfing compassion, loving kindness for everybody – you take it as a good ideal and then work on it step by step. It’s not like we are all Buddhist and we all have to give the same donation. We generate generosity, and as our generosity goes up we pleasingly and willingly help others and give and do good things.
The classical example is the cup of curry. If you can give a cup of curry, give it – make it hot though, so they can’t eat much! (Laughs) If you have no regrets and feel good, you can eventually give your life with no more regrets than giving a cup of curry. When you are so willing and pleased and happy to help others, you can give your life, but not before. The attitude it to train step by step. In the bodhisattva vows it is said, “As the Buddhas of the past have generated bodhicitta and then step by step and gradually they trained on the precepts, so I also for the benefit of other beings will generate bodhicitta and then step by step and gradually train on these precepts. That’s the approach.
In the teachings of the bodhisattvayana the main thing is about motivation, why it is important for you to feel that others are important, to be able to try to help others is important to you, how to generate boundless compassion for everybody. It doesn’t discuss what you should do and what not to do, too much. Or that you have to do this or that, or organize this, or give like that. That is important; the attitude is compassion and is important to generate and you have to see with your own situation and capacity and in what environment and which people – you decide what to do or not. No master will tell you to help here and there.
And you don’t have to make everyone a Buddhist. If it is not good for them, don’t let them near it. Not everyone has to meditate, only if they need it. If it is not good for the person, don’t show them. Do to the best of your knowledge. Everyone does not need to do the same thing. It depends on the moment. Sometimes it is better not to do or say, but just to get out of it; and it is better for you not to be there. Just going out can be the right thing. Becoming quiet can be useful. These are just examples but that is the understanding.
This is the main thing: Generate the feeling that there are no strangers. Everybody is like yourself. What’s a stranger? There is nothing called stranger. Everybody is like your friend. It doesn’t mean that everyone has to love you – that’s not possible. It’s not possible to help everybody or to be able to contact everyone. Sometimes you cannot help a person in great difficulty due to many reasons. It’s like that.
Some people get too sensitive and they feel they cannot help, and they cannot look at those painful things. That is not a good thing. We understand that there are lots of problems and pain in the world, and we cannot get rid of them like this (snaps). But it doesn’t mean that we should not work at it. The bodhisattva vows looks at the angle of taking many lifetimes; the important thing is to work at it. As long as people suffer we have to work on it; And it is not easy to even get rid of my own problems, and to work on meditation for myself and to work on wisdom.
Avalokiteshevara said he would help enlighten all beings in the Universe, and he worked for many kalpas, but eventually his head split into a thousand parts under the burden. That is to show that it is not easy.
To help people is not an easy task. It is a two way thing. A person must know how to take help, too. To help all beings to be free, therefore is not an easy thing. Therefore, referring to compassion, if in the end I am the only one to help, I will do it. It is a kind of resolution that even if everyone tries to hurt and stop me, I will continue alone to help other beings. We are not depending on the situation. It is resolute – my wish is to be free from suffering and have happiness, and it is the same for others. They can be tense because of that wish.
Even a little bit of good is better than nothing. That is compassion. It is not being temperamental: Today I am happy and compassionate, and tomorrow my mood is off, so I do nothing. Sometimes I feel not okay and that is okay at our stage: Sometimes we feel not so good. We need to see how we are, but we need not hold onto that either. Sometimes we make mistakes; we are not enlightened. Looking long term, compassion is that, having long term projects but also looking to see what we can do now: If I do a retreat, I will improve myself to be of help for others. That is not escaping. If you become a monk or nun, you may be escaping, but you cannot escape from yourself. You can go into a cave but nothing changes; the way you react is the same; the way your emotions work is the same; the way you meet people or don’t want them is the same – nothing changes. So you cannot really escape, but you can attempt. To practice Buddhism you needn’t be a monk or nun. It’s okay to become one if you feel it is good for you. I think those who are weaker become monks or nuns. “If I don’t become a monk, I will be trapped” Actually, if I can deal with everything (without becoming a monk) then things are okay – maybe I shouldn’t say that! But that is a point.
Therefore, the practice is very broad. We talk about different schools of Buddhism like Theravada and Mahayana - but in Buddhism there are not many differences. When I become a monk, I become a monk. I don’t become a Kagyu monk: I become a Buddhist monk. I have been through the Vinayana and am a vinayana monk. I can go with the Kagyus or the Gelugpas, I am still a monk. Any practice is very broad. It’s not like joining a club or school. You can join a monastery but you don’t just become that. If you are in the administration, that is another matter. If I take a precept, I take it. It is not attached to anything; it is only for my practice.
It is important to understand this. When I practice Buddhism, it is not like I have to join a Buddhist group and only then can I practice. I just practice. I can join a group but I don’t have to join any group. The practice and discipline is my own responsibility. If I observe it, it is good for me. Nobody will say, “It is so good that you have observed it!” Nobody even needs to know that I am observing.
Then, if I don’t observe it, it’s also my own thing. There is nobody to punish me. There is no one to watch – and nobody is supposed to. You know? All the disciplines and precepts in Buddhism are self discipline, because I know that’s a good way, that’s good for me and others, so therefore I train that.
This is very important to understand, because otherwise people think that it is like a group or association. It’s nothing to do with that. Generally in Buddhism, if I am a Buddhist practitioner nobody is registered. Nobody knows. If I am here, nobody knows that I am here. Like Karmapa doesn’t know that I am here. If you go to him and say, “Ringu Tulku is there!” he will say, “Oh yeah, he’s there? How is he doing? Oh, he’s doing well? Okay, that’s very nice. He’s doing terribly bad? Oh, I am very sorry!” There is nothing he can do about it.
It’s like that. It’s individual practice meaning, after all, it’s my own thing. I study, I practice, I do what I can and refrain from doing negative things, I do good things; it’s nothing to do with administration or organization. You can make an organization and that is okay, to work and stay together, that is also okay. When you have a sangha, that is good and it supports and influences the sangha members.
We are social beings and we need people, sometimes we get fed up but we need others since we are born. As a baby we are useless dirty things and need others, and they do everything for us. As we get older they educate us, and then we want people to go away. Then we get yet older and need others again!
We need others to love and hate and to fight with. l think that is why you have girlfriends and boyfriends – I sometimes see it like that. Sometimes I think that seventy-five percent of the problems come from this!
However, we need to inspire and support each other and that is the purpose of the family and sangha, to help each other. One day I am in a good mood and I can influence those who are feeling down; and the next day the roles are reversed.
So, we help each other in the sangha; but in the in the end, the practice is yourself.
Compassion and action
The motivation and inspiration of compassion is like that. It is an action; it’s a direction, slowly making it stronger and better. You develop yourself and see what the best thing you can do in the circumstances. You don’t always have to go out and be active, although you can go out and be active. There is sometimes this attitude in the world that if you are compassionate, then you have to go out and become a social worker, or start a school or hospital, or distribute things being active and so forth - otherwise you are not compassionate.
From the Buddhist point of view, you can do good things in many different ways. You can go out and start a school or hospital; it’s good and important and should be done. Actually, the Buddhists have less of that: The Christians have more of that, lots of charities, schools and hospitals and very good. The Punjabis, Sikhs have another thing: they give food! I like them. Every gurudwaras has a langar, a big kitchen; and it’s almost always open. I lived about one month on them. When I was small, we had a school for the lamas and tulkus called the Young Lama Song School in Dalhousie. One time, during vacation we were taken on a tour of Punjab in a bus, and we stopped at a gurudwaras, had lunch and looked around; and then did the same for dinner and lunch – the whole month from gurudwaras to gurudwaras - and they ask no questions, you only have to wash your hands and feet and you have to put something on your head.
That is different for Buddhists; it is not good to put something on your head because when you are receiving a teaching it is considered disrespectful. You have to take off your hat.
For the Punjabis, it is the opposite; you have to put something on your head! That’s why they have a turban. Even if you are not a Sihk, even if you have just a handkerchief, it doesn’t matter! They have nice halwas, a nice sweet. You cannot get this on the market only in the gurudwaras.
The Buddhists have no organization; there is very little organization - even before, especially in Tibet. They didn’t like organization too much, I think. They almost didn’t have a government for a thousand years. There was a government but nobody knew about it. They didn’t have an army or police – of course, banks – not heard of! I remember when I was younger in Kham, they didn’t even have currency. Sometimes they had Chinese silver coins, but they were only used at the value of the silver; it wasn’t used like money. Everybody did their own thing, produced their own things and then they bartered.
That’s why business was very easy. You just went with your horse and somebody else went with their horse, “Do you have anything to sell?” “What about this?” Sometimes they exchanged their horse – it was like that, very unorganized. That doesn’t mean that there was no charity, but it was not organized.
My home was far away from Lhasa. At that time, to go there and back took one year. You couldn’t just go straight there and back; you had to camp and all. And also, we could only reach Lhasa in winter because we thought we would die of the heat in summer. That’s how high it is in my place.
What people carried - just a little tsampa in their bag - when it was down, they would ask people along the way for more. That’s how it was for tea or butter – it’s not many things, anyway; you don’t need a toaster. You take your own cup, one bowl for everything, no forks and knives - you just use your hands! There was generosity and helping each other; everyone looked after each other - but there was no organization. And even if someone were to say, “I am organizing something,” people would not give anything! They would say, “What is he doing? I can give myself!”
Things are changing now.
Tibetans have to learn a lot because they don’t know how to work together; because they all worked on their own. They just got on their horse and did their thing, you know? So, if they have to work together with communication and things like that – they don’t know how to do it. They have no habit of planning ahead. They plan ahead sometimes for hundreds of years with a vision but not planning. Vision is one thing and planning is another!
Anyway, why am I saying this!?
I mean to say that working for charities is very important, I think. If there is a Buddhist center, there must be a charity attached to it which can help others, not just meditate – of course, meditation does good for others, learning how to meditate and be calmer and relaxed and healthier. If you can liberate yourself, that is the highest help. There’s nothing more than that. If you can bring lasting peace and happiness, what can be more helpful than? That’s the ultimate; but that doesn’t mean that only that is the thing. Some people need other things. That’s the basic understanding.
About Buddha nature, enlightenment, and permanence/impermanence
When you talk about Buddha nature, it is to say that – it is not a thing. My finger is a thing. Is it permanent or impermanent? Buddha nature is not like that. There is nothing called “this is Buddha nature.” Buddha nature is about a quality; it’s like to say that the way things are, there’s nothing wrong with it – that’s Buddha nature. There’s nothing wrong with the way the things really are – that’s the Buddha nature. That’s not a thing. It’s not about something; it’s about the situation, about the way. So when I say I realize the Buddha nature, it’s to see the way things are. That’s when I have become enlightened.
So therefore, it can’t be impermanent because it is not a thing. If you want you can say it’s permanent; if you like, in a way, sometimes they say it is permanent, but it’s not the question of permanent against impermanent. It’s not like that. It’s beyond permanent and impermanent. That’s why sometimes, because it’s impermanent you can say it’s permanent; but it’s not like permanent in the sense of always unchanging, only there; it’s not something. From the Buddhist point of view there can’t be something like that; permanent. Because if it is like that, something there - that’s why they say in the sutras, “From the form to enlightenment, if you look at something, anything, everything, you can’t find its essence.” You can’t find something remaining independently on its own. Because if it is there, then it would be functional; it wouldn’t have any function because it wouldn’t relate or it wouldn’t influence so it becomes function-less; so therefore, is impermanence permanence or impermanence? That’s also not a question. Impermanence is not a thing. It’s describing the nature of things, that they are changing, and things do change, and that aspect, that quality, is called impermanence. There’s nothing called impermanence there. If there is something called impermanence separate from all those things, then you say, “Oh, this impermanence, is it permanent or impermanent?” but it’s not a thing like that.
Buddha nature and enlightenment are similar. The experience of enlightenment; you can’t say it’s either permanent or impermanent. It’s the realization of the way things really are. That’s neither impermanent or permanent; it’s a clarity.
Tatagatagharba is the nature, not “underlying nature.” When you describe the nature of a thing, it is not subject to change. The nature of water is moist: That doesn’t change. The nature of water is moist, that’s all! You know? That doesn’t mean that water won’t change; it will change; but the moisture-ness of the water will not change, because that’s the quality. So therefore, our basic nature is Buddha nature; that doesn’t change, but we change.
Impermanence and Buddha nature, it’s like this: impermanence is the nature, as well, the way things are. So when you look at things, they are impermanent, they are interdependent, they are emptiness – if you want to say that – and if you go deeper, because it is emptiness and interdependent, it’s momentary, there’s nothing wrong with it. So that fact that there’s nothing wrong with it, is the Buddha nature part of it. Therefore, Buddha nature is the nature of it; impermanence is also a nature of it; emptiness is also a nature of it; so everything comes together because that’s the way the things are.
Our real nature – there is nothing wrong – the totally enlightened Buddhas, the way of seeing and being, and then the way we are, the way things are, is exactly the same; that’s why; because that’s the way it is, we need to see that sometime. We cannot fool ourself all the time. We can fool ourselves some of the time, some of us; but we cannot fool all of us all the time. That’s why we need to see it, because that’s the way it is. Because it is the nature, the way it is, therefore it has to be sometime seen. We have the capacity to see it, because that’s the way it is; when we don’t see it, we are deluded but we can’t be deluded all the time.
Achieving enlightenment, it’s not something you get, it’s about seeing clearly. Once you see clearly, it can’t go away, because it’s like information: You had the misinformation and now you have the right information.
Once you have the right information you can’t regain the misinformation.
For instance; you didn’t know about Kamalashila - it’s not that Kamalashila wasn’t there, you just didn’t know about it. One day you come here and say, “This is Kamalashila.” Now it won’t go away. You can forget the name Kamalashila sometimes! But that information will not go away.
Once you see it clearly, it doesn’t go away. That’s why it is said that once you are enlightened, you cannot get un-enlightened; and you cannot forget it because it’s not about a memory. It’s about the present situation. Its about the way things are, so it’s not about something to forget.
We can say in a nutshell that Mahayana Buddhism is wisdom and compassion. The basic motivation behind our actions and way of looking at life is that we want good things for ourself and others. Compassion has two common misunderstandings: that it is good for others but I have to feel bad, or feel the same misery that others have; and that I have to sacrifice and be like a doormat that others can walk on. These are misconceptions. Like I said, we wish good for ourselves and others. This is generally in us, not just with certain religions. We always have this feeling, whether we express it as compassion or not. Generally speaking, if we spend our life not just for our own gratification but rather doing things which are useful for others, that which is good for others in the long run -when I feel like that, then I feel like my life is worthwhile and I feel satisfied. Satisfaction in my work depends on that, whether I am doing good for others or not. If I feel what I am doing is not good for others, I don’t feel satisfaction. That’s naturally there. Maybe you can say its part of Buddha nature - I don’t know – but it’s generally like that. If I am just living, but not doing good for others, I feel my life is not that worthwhile or purposeful.
It’s also because of this: All of us have the feeling that we like to be appreciated and loved. It’s general and has nothing to do with some particular ideology or concept. We want to be love, appreciated, cared for and feel useful. Why do we want to be appreciated? Because if I am doing something good, others will appreciate me. If I am not doing something good, others will not appreciate me. If I do something useful, then others will appreciate me. If not, then they will not appreciate me.
So basically, if I do something good; if others appreciate me, I feel okay. You can call it compassion if you like. That kind of urge or basic goodness, to want to benefit or be useful and helpful is naturally there. That’s why I want to be appreciated. Therefore, when we talk about compassion, it’s not about being a victim, that “I have to be compassionate and do everything everybody says and then everybody walks on me.” It’s not like that, but rather having the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing good for myself and others as much as I can, and that I increase that capacity as much as possible.
So therefore, I don’t need to hate anybody, and I try to help, to the best of my capacity, whoever I can; and if I can’t, it’s okay. It’s not that I have to do everything everybody asks me to do. It’s not like “I have to obey the order.” Compassion is not about doing only what is nice and pleasing to others, or making myself popular. It’s about wishing well for others. Sometimes it is best not to do certain things even if others ask you to do it. There’s nothing wrong with saying no. Otherwise, it can become heavy if we think, “I have to be compassionate,” if you feel you must please everyone. If I have that attitude, then it’s too much and it becomes a burden; but compassion should not become a burden, it should be a joy, because there is no ill-will or negative feelings against anybody, so I feel light. I try to be good to everybody; I have no enemies in my heart. If people want to harm me, it’s up to them. I can’t stop them. I try to help however I can in my small capacity. That’s the idea. There is nothing negative that I am holding on to. I am not taking the responsibility – because I can’t please everybody anyway, however good I am or however much I try. I can never please everybody all the time. So, if some people are not very pleased with me, it’s very nice! (Laughs) You know, it’s okay, and I think this is very important. Whatever you do, people will always say bad things about it. The more you do, the more they will criticize. If you don’t want to be criticized at all, then you can’t do anything; you can’t say anything – even if you don’t say or do anything, they will still criticize you! You cannot please everybody all the time.
It’s like the story with the donkey.
There was a father and son who had a donkey and they took it to town, walking alongside it. They passed a village and people standing on the side of the road said, “Look how foolish those people are, walking alongside the donkey! One of them could ride it! The donkey is for riding. Why do they have a donkey if they don’t ride it?”
So, the father and son said, “It’s true,” and the son got on the donkey and the father walked next to him.
After some time they passed another village and the people said, “Look at that proud little brat! He’s riding on the donkey and allowing his father to walk! What kind of a bad son is that!?”
So the father and son discussed it, and then the father got on the donkey.
After a while, they got to another village and the people said, “Look at this nasty old man! He’s riding on the donkey and he’ making his young son is walk on the road! That’s terrible! What an evil father he is!”
So the father and son discussed it and said, “It’s not right. Let us both ride on the donkey!”
So, both of them rode on the donkey, and people said, “Look at those terrible people, both the father and son riding on that small donkey! They are going to kill him!”
“What should we do now?” the father and son said.
So they got a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it and carried the donkey; and everyone on the road was laughing, throwing things at them and saying, “Those are the most foolish people we have ever seen. A donkey is for riding, not for carrying!”
So, of course, one can never be 100% clear about what’s the good thing and what’s not: As long as we don’t have complete wisdom, we don’t know; but within our understanding of what we think is good and useful for ourselves and others - we try to do that as much as possible; that’s compassion. I can ask people; I can find out how to do things which are good for myself and others. That’s what we call the positive deed.
In Buddhism we have what is known as the two accumulations and they consist of wisdom, and merit or virtue. The accumulation of wisdom is to try to learn, to see things clearly, meditate and analyse so that our wisdom develops.
The accumulation of merit or virtue is just as important and has to do with how we act with body, mind and speech. The action is not only with the body and speech: Thinking bad or well is also an action. Actions inspired by different emotions in the mind, different feelings, is also an action, positive action and negative action. And that culminates in action of body and speech because action begins in the mind. See what thoughts bring problems; they are regarded as negative. See what thoughts bring joy peace and happiness; they are regarded as positive. We try to make our actions of body, speech and mind more positive and less negative. And that transforms our way of being. Sometimes we think we are a certain way, like negative or jealous. But that is only our habitual tendency. It is like an addiction. If I am easily sad, or hurt, or depressed - these habits can change by doing less of that and more of the opposite. Whatever we exercise becomes stronger in us and we become more like that. If we think positive, we become more positive. If we think more negative we become more negative. Like exercising, if we exercise this arm it gets stronger, and if we don’t, it doesn’t.
(This is a strange outfit I am wearing. I was walking a lot before, and one arm became brown and big, and the other arm became thin and pale. If I were to put them together you would not see them as coming from the same person!)
That’s why mindfulness and awareness are necessary. All sorts of thoughts come to us but we don’t have to act on them all. If we start to do that, then it’s too much; we can’t do it. And the same for emotions; we don’t have to act on all of them. That’s what we have to work on. A positive thought comes, it’s okay. A negative thought comes, it’s okay. Positive and negative emotions come; we just have to learn not to get carried away by them. We become aware, and we know that this is not going to lead us to a good situation. It’s not going to be helpful to me or others, so when we know that, we say it’s okay.
That’s what we call discipline: discipline is not something strict; it’s the understanding. When you deeply understand, then you realize - this is important – it is not like a command or order or something forced. You don’t want to do something that causes pain, difficulty, or problems that you don’t want. Generally, concerning discipline we think, “I can’t do this, because he says I can’t do this. He says I can’t do this, but actually, I would like to do it! Oh, he’s looking the other way, so now maybe I can…” - that’s not the right kind of discipline. That’s a command. That’s an order. That’s like pushing down. That kind of discipline is not good because it’s like you are always looking for when you can do it. (Laughs) But discipline here is not like that. It has to do with having choices. There is nobody saying, “I can’t do that.” I have one, two, three, four choices to pick from. “I know if I do this now, it will be exciting but it will bring me lots of trouble later on.” And I don’t like to have lots of trouble later on. So you say, “I think I should not do it!” and it’s my own decision. It’s not like someone is looking over my shoulder; I know it’s not good for me. If that understanding is there, my discipline becomes genuine; I really don’t want to do it. That’s why I don’t do it. It’s not because somebody told me not to do it, and then I don’t do it. It’s very different. So therefore, this kind of accumulating positive deeds is there; trying to refrain from doing negative things, trying to increase doing positive things with that understanding.
So that understanding is very important; what is useful and beneficial for myself and others, to find that out. So when you do something positive, it’s not because someone told you, “I have to do this because my lama said! or “Buddha said it has to be done like this!” Then it’s not genuinely positive, because you are doing it, but it’s like a stick is behind you; but if you do it because you know it is genuinely good for yourself and others, then your interest and willingness to do it, your diligence - as we call it - increases.
Diligence does not mean drudgery or forced. It is the joy in doing positive things. When I have that, then my diligence grows. I am motivated and my interest and willingness to do positive things gets stronger. Doing a positive thing does not become a burden and it’s not like work. It’s more like a hobby.
We don’t have any hobbies in Tibet. It’s true. It’s a strange thing: We never knew about boredom and we don’t have hobbies. A hobby is an interesting thing because it’s work, but not work. You do it – nobody pays for it, but you do it very diligently. And hobbies are not necessarily always pleasant. Sometimes they are even dangerous, but people never get tired of doing them. They feel very good doing them. I first thought it was really strange.
I have a friend who climbed a mountain and broke his leg and he was in the hospital for four months, and then, for many years, he had to recover. He eventually recovered, got married and had children and then suddenly I get a letter saying, “I am going mountain climbing. If I die, please say prayers for me.” So I said, “What is this!? Why are you going there, if you are about to die?” I was almost writing a letter saying, “Who is pushing you to go there and die!?” But then I realized it was not necessary to write it, because he knew how dangerous it was: He had asked me to say prayers! So there was no use for me to say anything. So I just said, “If you die, I will say prayers for you!” (Laughs) “But I hope you will come back healthy.” Of course, he didn’t die. These hobbies are dangerous sometimes and people are still interested to do them. When people like what they are doing, they can be so motivated that it is no longer a burden; and even if it is hard or dangerous, they like it. I have never heard of anyone being totally exhausted by doing their hobby.
When you see the benefits, that the positive things are good for you and others, then I think you can take it like a hobby. You don’t get tired; you are interested; that’s how to increase your positives: The accumulation of merit is that.
The difference between the positive and negative is not difficult to understand; the actions which have been driven or produced by negative emotions like hatred, greed, jealousy, arrogance and things like that, become negative actions. The actions produced by more positive things like compassion, kindness, honesty, truth, good will; those kind of things then become positive deeds.
Also, you can generally see what is good for others or not, because it’s more or less the golden rule, “Whether I want something to be done to me not.” If there is some action you are about to do for others or towards something, I think, “If somebody does that to me, how would I feel?” If I feel bad, then I think it’s not good to do to others also. It’s not that difficult to understand.
Of course, as long as you don’t have complete wisdom, you don’t know everything; but we do what we can to the best of our understanding, wisdom and realization, and then we increase that, with our interest, dedication and diligence.
Then we reduce the negative things as much as possible, with a relaxed way; if one negative thing happens and we react with “I can’t do it! I’m too…!” - not too much of that. As I said before, it’s important to allow yourself to have the weaknesses, to accept yourself the way you are. You are not already enlightened, and if you were, what’s the use? – no need ( to react like that).
Some people come to the Buddhist centers and get shocked. They read in their Buddhist books about loving kindness, compassion, good will, helping each other, non-violence, all sorts of things, and then they think, “Buddhism is a good religion! These people must be very good, very kind, very nice.” But then these visitors get the shock of their lives; because neither the lamas are like that, nor the students!
Then some people ask me, “Why is it like that? Why are Buddhists not as it is said in the books?” I was thinking of what to say, and I think I understand now. When you go to the hospital, you go there to become healthy, but you are not healthy; that’s why you go to the hospital. If I go to a hospital and see all the sick people and say, “What is this!? The hospital should be full of healthy people!” – it’s not right.
Therefore, a Buddhist center is where people go to become kind, to become nicer, to become better – because they are not. So it’s a little bit like in a hospital, to become better! (Laughs) better human beings, kinder human beings, more compassionate human beings, you know? Naturally, you don’t find that! because they want to become – if they were already like that, why should they come to a Buddhist center? There’s no need! (Laughs) I think it’s like that.
Annette: That’s the end of our friendship, Rinpoche (laughter); but I’m here to become nice, so I’m really working on it. It’s good for me.
I’m a little bit joking. All Buddhist centers are not like that. There are some very nice, kind, and compassion people there also.
When we talked about positive and negative deeds, it means working with people for people; there are two things: something for ourselves and something for others. It has to happen at the same time. You do good things for others, whatever that may be, and at the same time you improve yourself, your positive way of seeing and reacting.
We say, “to accept our limitations,” but accept has two different meanings.
Some people use accept in the wrong way saying, “I accept what I am; not very good, lazy, I am this and that – and finished!” That’s not what we mean by accept. It means, I have to understand the way I am and accept it. I can’t expect something different. If I expect something different, it doesn’t work because I am not like that.
That does not mean that I cannot improve or try to improve. Acceptance from that point of view means that I understand where I stand; I know my own problems, weaknesses, and limitations. That’s accepted, understood and clearly apprehended – I don’t know if apprehended is a good word or not – but clearly understood, that’s the main thing. That should not prevent me from learning more, from improving myself, from working on it. Actually, if I am to work on something, I have to understand the problem, the weaknesses; because if I don’t, then I don’t know where I have to work on. If I know I have more anger, then I have to work on that; if I have more laziness, then I have to work on it. Whether I will work on it or not, that’s up to me. (Laughs) But that’s what it is.
But it’s also important to understand other’s limitations, problems and weaknesses. I think it’s extremely important. Otherwise, we get very quickly discouraged. We know that others – like me – have lots of negative things, weaknesses, and problems. They are not perfect. If we understand that deeply, then I know who I am dealing with. I don’t expect everybody to be perfect. I don’t expect everybody to be totally nice and kind and great. When I don’t expect them to be totally kind and nice and all-perfect, then I have lots of pleasant surprises. Then when someone is nice to me, “Ah, very nice!” Why should they be nice? It’s not necessary that they are nice to me. Why should they be? But they are nice sometimes, and kind, and good – then I feel very good. But if I expect them to be very kind, nice, good, and all-perfect, then I have always unpleasant surprises, because it’s not like that. They are not all nice and kind; they have problems. This understanding and acceptance that people have their problems and limitations and are not perfect is a very, very important thing. That is when you learn how to live with other people in a harmonious way; because when you don’t expect people to be all great, or all-perfect, you have no problem in dealing with their problems. If you have a friend and expect that person to be perfect, you definitely have a problem, because he can’t be. If you don’t expect that, you have no problem, or less of one because you are prepared to deal with them.
In dealing with people, working with and helping them – you know, helping people is not necessarily all a bed of roses. Sometimes people can be very difficult. Even if you do something very good, they can say bad things. In Nepal, there is a group from Samye Ling which has a kitchen and distributes free food for a few months in the winter. Someone who worked there asked one person who was eating there on a regular basis, “What would you do if they stopped doing this next year? You are eating here.”
He said, “Nah, they will not stop it.”
“Why will they not stop it?”
“Oh, if they stop it, they have no job!”
Instead of being grateful to them that they are giving food every winter, he is saying, “If they stop, they have no job, so they have to give us.” It’s like that sometimes; not saying thank you, but like “they’re doing it because they have to do something.” There are people like that, and even more - it doesn’t matter; but you know what I mean to say: It’s not like you do something for someone and they are always grateful for it. So you have to be prepared; even if you do something good, it’s not always that they thank you. Sometimes they say very nasty things. (Laughs) If you don’t understand that and are not prepared to live with that, then you are not prepared to deal with it. That’s why in Mahayana, the bodhisattva acts without expectations of gratefulness or thanks. How much help you do and how much help is received is another thing. You can do a lot, but how much people receive out of it depends on them, not you. That doesn’t matter. You do what you can to the best of your ability. It if doesn’t help, at least you have accumulated lots of positive and you become better.
Working on our own improvement in body, speech, and mind actions, especially my attitude and working for others has to grow at the same time, from the Buddhist point of view. This is discussed at length in the Mahayana scriptures. It’s not always easy. Lots of people who are enthusiastic at first working for the benefit of others get totally burnt out. It happens very quickly, like in therapies and other helping work. It’s a big phenomenon and it’s understandable, especially if you expect what you do to have a 100% result, and if you feel that everybody has to be helped. Then you will feel a burden from all those things which you think are expected of you; and if things are not turning out, there will be pain. You can only do your best and nothing more than that.
What I do, and what result will happen is two different things; because what I do is one element – whether it is for myself or for others. When something doesn’t happen it’s usual for people to think, “I’ve done something wrong. I could have done something better. I feel bad about it” – but I think it’s not like that, even if I did everything right; because my doing is only one of the elements for the thing to happen: So therefore, if all other elements don’t come together, it can’t come together; it doesn’t happen.
On the other hand, if everything goes right, I don’t have to be too proud; because even if I do a little thing and everything else goes well, it comes.
I think this is very important because if you have that understanding, then when things do not go as you wished or intended, you don’t get discouraged; and if everything goes better than you expected, you don’t get arrogant. And that’s important because that’s the truth, also. That’s the way it is.
This is a broad understanding of how to work on the accumulation of positive deeds and working for the benefit of other beings.
I didn’t say there is no time. I said it like this –
When you give a talk there are four versions of it: the first version is what you want to say. The second version is what you happened to say, which is totally different. (Laughs) The third version is what you are reported to have said. And the fourth thing is what different people hear from the talk.
But anyway, I was just giving one example. I was not saying whether time exists or not. I was talking about one particular thing; like this flower – how does it change? Does it change or does it not change? You can’t say it doesn’t change; it changes. If it changes, how does it change? Does it change day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, or second by second? How does it change? If it changes day by day then, when does it change? When you look at it, it doesn’t change day by day or second by second; because there is no time that “now it changes, now not”; “now it changes, now not” – if you look deeply. Therefore the change is, kind of continuous. When the change is continuous, that means that every moment, every moment less than seconds – you know, because seconds can be also, theoretically, mathematically divided into countless time particles. Therefore, it changes continuously; so when a thing changes continuously, then; when is the time when that thing stays still? Therefore, the thing doesn’t have a time when it does exist because it’s always in motion; it’s changing. That’s why I said the nature of that thing is not existing, but emptiness, because it’s always in motion. But that’s another matter. Time – we have to speak in the context of time, time and space. Because in our mind the concept has to be in the time and space context; there is no other way to frame it. But time is a concept, because we say time is past, present, and future. Now, that past, present and future is relative, isn’t it? Without the past, there can’t be future. Without the future, there can’t be present. Without the present there can’t be past. It’s relative.
We say it’s past in relationship with the present, in relationship with an observer. Someone says “present” otherwise there is no present. According to that there is past and future. But actually- past is what? The past is gone; it’s not there. Future, it’s not there; it’s yet to come. Therefore present is the only time, but where is the present? because the present, also – which present? (snapping fingers) the moment past? or the moment future? When it moves so fast you can’t really pinpoint. So, at the absolute level, time is like everything else; you can’t say it’s this or it’s that. But relatively, it is very much there. So, time is also you can say time and emptiness. Emptiness is time. Time is emptiness. (Laughs)
There are people who talk about the fourth time. That’s the timeless time. That’s also in Buddhism, like the Kalachakra and many places. But the fourth time is not about a different time, it’s to say that time is a very relative thing. Space is a very relative thing too. When you understand deeply that time and space are relative, then you can understand that things can appear and disappear, and there’s no need to have any “thing,” any matter. Matter is not important. That’s why on one speck of dust there can be a universe; and one moment can be kalpa; because there is nothing that is absolutely there. How I perceive is a very relative thing. That’s why it’s possible to have countless universes even in our place, at the same time because there is nothing absolutely concrete on a material basis – the interdependence. Anyway, I don’t know whether I can deepen your knowledge or not, but - little bit like that.
Vajrasattva practice for the past and future
It’s about the past. It’s a Vajrayana Ngöndro, or preliminary practice, but not in the sense of doing it first, and then it is finished and you go on to do something different. It’s a formulation or collection of very essential practices together through the pith instruction. In Vajrayana, we have two different levels of teachings: One is the sutras and tantras, which are teachings given by the Buddha, long descriptions, very complicated ones with big texts, many commentaries with hundreds of pages – if you can go through them, and understand all of them, then you have a very detailed understanding of everything; but for most people it is very difficult to read through, and very vast with too many details; so it is hard to get the essence because it’s so wide. Therefore, there are instructions to put the sutra and tantra teachings in an essential form in order to practice.
When Atisha Dipamkara went to Tibet, he asked his translator, “What have you studied?”
Then he was given a list of all the sutras, tantras and commentaries.
Atisha said, “Very good. You have studied and know everything. There was no need for me to come here!” and he was very happy. Then he said, “How do you practice?”
“Well, I practice according to as it says in all the studies I have met with.”
“Oh,” said Atisha, “There was need for me to come here.”
You need to essentialize that. You have to put them together, otherwise you are a little bit lost. The Ngöndro is that, to essentialize the different things and put them in a nutshell, “Okay, now you practice this.” But I don’t want to go too deep into this.
The two main things are the Vajrasattva and the mandala offering. These two are to work on ourself to let go. Vajrasattva is to let go of the negative things; emotions that we can’t let go of like hurt, actions that we are holding on to – we exercise letting go. We feel like something is happening, with the visualization, with the nectar coming out washing yourself inside – exercising and training yourself to let go of the negative things so that you don’t hold onto anything negative. That’s the main practice of Vajrasattva, you know?
The mandala offering is to let go of positive things; because holding onto anything becomes a problem. Therefore, you’re not clinging or becoming attached to anything. You make yourself free. To make yourself free, to liberate yourself you need to let go of the bad things as well as the good things; because if you cling to the good things, it’s the same thing: “That’s very nice. I want it. It’s very good – Oh, I might lose it!” Fear comes; aversion comes.
So these two practices are for that. If you can let go of the past and present, then the future doesn’t matter because it’s not there yet.
You don’t need to purify the future. It’s not there. Only the past and present. It’s what happened in the past that you are holding onto in the present. You purify the present and that’s enough.
You have to change causes and conditions in the present. If you can change the causes and conditions in the present, then the future will change. You cannot change anything in the future because it is already too late. (Laughs)
More about time
If you have an indication of the future, it does not mean that you are in the future. If your mind is clear, you can see the past and future in some ways. But it does not mean that it is already there. It is said that when your mind is clear and calm that you can see the past and future, and across time and space. That doesn’t mean that it has already happened. It can be a premonition; sometimes it happens exactly like that, and sometimes not like that. That’s how predictions are made.
Some people can make predictions about the future. Guru Rinpoche made many predictions about Tibet: When he was about to leave, the disciples - and in particular the king - asked him what would be happening. He gave lots of predictions and remedies for them and laid out a number of scenarios for the possibilities. To tell you the truth, the Tibetans always did the exact opposite of what Guru Rinpoche said, and it came out as he predicted.
During the time of King Trisong Detsen, Guru Rinpoche said, “This year, you should not celebrate the Tibetan New Year.”
There was lots of discussion and the people said, “It’s not possible. We have to celebrate New Year. What can we do?”
“Okay,” said Guru Rinpoche, “Celebrate the New Year but you, the king, should not do the horse racing.”
Of course, the king did the horse racing, and he fell from his horse and died. Since then, all the predictions went like that - and this is just one example.
To have these kinds of premonitions depends on the clarity of mind. Anybody can have them. Sometimes they will be significant, sometimes insignificant. Once I had a dream – I have nothing significant! (Laughs) - and in this dream I was sitting in a room which I had never been in before, and I was looking out of a window on to a meadow and a small garden with a very special small gate. A few days later, I went to Canada for the first time, and when I got to the dharma center in Vancouver, they showed me to a room. I went in, sat down, looked down from the window and I said, “This is something I have seen.” (Laughs) I remembered, “This is the dream, exactly the same, everything! This must be something significant!” But there was nothing significant. (Laughs)
It’s not that the future is there, but rather that the mind is clear. Our mind has clarity, a quality mind which sees everything; it has no boundaries and cannot be stopped by things, and is not restricted by time and space.
When our mind becomes extremely clear and calm, we see things. This has nothing to do with time – from my point of view.
But actually, nothing is impossible. I sometimes dream that I am walking on air. If I walk really fast, then I can fly. So what? But I can’t do it in the daytime. (Laughs)
Clarity, bliss, thoughtlessness, seeing things as they are, liberation, young Rechungpa, and the purpose of meditation
When I was talking about dreams, I was just making an example. Clarity is not just in dreams; it can be without dreams as well. Clarity is a basic quality of the mind. When the mind is not confused or disturbed, it can have that clarity; that’s the main point.
When we are talking about experiences like in the calming down meditation, it is possible to have different experiences – and it is not like you are highly realized because the experiences can happen on and off. There, the clarity can be two things; not dull, not seeing through time and space, but clear – and because of that you can see through time and space; blissfulness is you feel very happy. When your mind becomes stable and clear, there is no disturbance and its true nature, the way the mind really is, uncontaminated, comes out. So you have the feeling of being very clear and calm, which creates peace and you become very happy, not because something happens, but because it is naturally joyful. That’s the place we are talking about, naturally joyful, unlimited joy not because of anything, but just feeling – that’s blissfulness. You can let your mind be without different distractions.
In thoughtlessness, it’s not that you can’t think, but you become so free from disturbances, and you become peaceful. That’s the thoughtlessness. The rushing of thoughts and emotions that we have now become free or less. But these kinds of experiences are very nice. Therefore it can be a trap because when it is nice we say, “I got it!” but then, it is lost, and when I try to get it back I can get frustrated because of trying. So, it is important to know that the instruction is that when you have good experiences, not to feel too good; you are able to let go. You say okay, and disturb it, “This is an experience. I don’t have to hold on to it. There is no need to have aversion and attachment.” You just break - kind of, and then do it again. The main thing is that when you are good at meditation, the positive qualities are there anyway, but it’s not like, “I am going to lose it,” kind of a thing. When you break it and break it and break it, then you don’t have the feeling, “Oh, I must not lose it!” When that happens your mind becomes really stable because you have no expectation or fear of losing it or not getting it back. That’s the idea. These three qualities of mind are important things actually, to stabilize them, to have them like - whether you like it or not, it’s not something that you have to acquire, or achieve, or struggle for, but just naturally – that is supposed to be the thing, when you meditation becomes completely stable.
These things are experiences. This is not directly connected with seeing how things are. But then, when you see how the things really are, then also you have this clarity. If you see things clearly, your mind is clear and thereby free with nothing to fear and more deeply joyful; but it’s not exactly the same. Experiences and seeing clearly - directly about the nature of things – you can say they are slightly different, maybe.
But these kinds of experiences are not regarded at that important.
Great masters had these experiences right (snaps) from the beginning. Like Rechungpa. When he was very small, he was a cow herder. One day he went to Milarepa, “Can you give me some meditations?” He taught him how to meditate and then Rechungpa disappeared and didn’t return home. His family was worried and they searched all over the place. They thought he had run away.
After a few days someone said, “He goes to see this yogi up in the mountains. Maybe he knows. Ask him.”
So they went to ask Milarepa, “Yes, the boy came here. I gave him some meditation techniques, but then I didn’t see him after that.”
“But he never came back!” his family said.
Some others said, “Sometimes he meditates below that rock over there. Go and see if he is there!”
They went over and Rechungpa was meditating, so they woke him up and said, “What are you doing here?”
And he said, “I was a little bit…”
And they said, “No, you were not a little bit - it was seven days!”
“I don’t think it was that long!” but then he looked and saw that the sun was much more in the East than when he sat down. He didn’t know that much time had passed.
When you are very peaceful, time passes quickly and you don’t realize it. If there are lots of thoughts, then meditating for five minutes can be difficult. The main thing is not to have the experiences of blissfulness, or thoughtlessness and things like that – it’s that whatever thoughts and emotions come, that you are able to deal with them; they don’t overpower you. You can let them come and you can let them go, and you are not either disturbed or taken over by them. When that happens then, you really stabilized meditation; you really did something. Then, it’s liberating, which means you know how to handle your thoughts and emotions. If you are just feeling good and stable, that can sometimes last long but it has to end; you have to get out of it, there are always thoughts and emotions coming back; it doesn’t uproot. So therefore, the real meditation is not to have these kinds of experiences, but learning how to deal with any emotions; that even bad emotions coming- it’s okay - good emotions coming, or negative thoughts, fear and depression - they come and you feel okay, you know how to deal with it; and then, blissfulness and positive things come - and you are okay - when that happens, that is the real understanding, that’s the purpose.
The general understanding of Mahayana practice is included in the six paramitas. We did not go through the six paramitas in this teaching one by one, but we tried to get a general understanding of all of them through wisdom and compassion in which the whole thing is included. There are many text teachings like the Bodhicharyavatara and the Thirty Seven Practices of the Bodhisattva, and in particular the Seven Point Mind Training which is a unique, almost exclusively Mahayana practice; those scripts are the basis, as well as the Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa which has a particularly clear explanation of the six paramitas.
I will explain how we can take the different teachings and understandings into a daily practice context.
That does not mean that we cannot mix. From the Tibetan Buddhist point view, when you say Mahayana, it also includes Vajrayana and Theravada. There is nothing exclusive and this is important to understand. Therefore when I talk about Mahayana, it’s just to say that we can do that practice without – some people have problems with some of the practices of Vajrayana because they do not understand them, they cannot connect. They think that those practices are very Tibetan and very cultural. Actually, it’s not true. The Vajrayana practices are not Tibetan, at all. They are completely Indian. All of them were translated from Indian texts, taught by Indian teachers, and brought to Tibet and preserved there as faithfully as possible. So it’s not really Tibetan; but when Tibetans start to practice it, it becomes Tibetan. It’s not that they are trying to make it Tibetan; but they cannot help making it Tibetan because those who practice it are Tibetans. I have no doubt it will happen the same way in the West also. Some people make attempts to westernize. When that happens, I’m not exactly sure whether that’s a very good thing to do or not; because if it has to be done, it has to be done by someone with the complete understanding and experience; otherwise it is difficult to say which part is Tibetan and which part is the practice. There was no effort to tibetanize it; it just became Tibetan. Therefore, it’s very important to understand the depth of these practices, and why we are doing this, and why we are doing that; and when you understand the depth of the practices, then the form doesn’t become that important, and it can change.
It’s the same with all traditions; they begin with a purpose and are done for this and this reason, and things like that – sometimes it becomes too rigid, “This is exactly the way my master used to do. I must do exactly like this and nothing else is correct.” You can become very fanatic about it. That is also because we don’t understand exactly why it is done like that. This is extremely important.
I like this story so much:
There was a Hindi master who used to do Satsang, which here means ‘practice together.’ Every evening, the students arrived, did Satsang, and then left. This master had a black cat which was disturbing them because it was jumping and bothering everyone, so the master asked the cat to be tied up during the Satsang. So, it became the routine that when people came in, they tied the cat, sat down, did the practice, untied the cat, and left.
So it was going on, every day, every day. And then, one day the master died and one of his senior students became the master. And it went on the same way:
The people came in, they tied the cat, sat down, did the practice, untied the cat, and left.
Now one day, the cat died.
They said, “How can we do the Satsang without tying the cat? We have to find a cat, and it has to be a black cat exactly like this. Otherwise, it’s not possible to do the Satsang.”
So they went all over the city trying to find a cat exactly like that. When they found one, they brought it in, they tied it, did the Satsang, they released it, and then went home.
You know? Sometimes it happens like that. (Laughs) This happens because we don’t know why - why the cat was tied! (Laughs) And if you knew why the cat was tied and the purpose of it, then you don’t need to do it anymore because it was not because you need to have a cat tied, but because the cat was disturbing.
So this is very important in understanding. Sometimes this kind of thing can happen, especially in the Vajrayana which has lots of methods and many skilful means. Skilful means – that’s to work directly habitual tendencies. If you know how to do this well, it can be extremely strong and powerful. But if you don’t know how it works, and why it is done like that, then it can just become like a tradition, nothing much. Some people have this attitude of the Vajrayana as being too Tibetan or esoteric – so to practice Vajrayana you really have to understand deeply why we do these things; and this is very important.
Mahayana practices are much less like that and there are less problems in that respect. We don’t have to tie any cats. Mahayana has no rituals, less special methods and different kinds of skilful means, in a way, than Vajrayana. Mahayana practices are very straight forward and are easier to understand. None of, “This I don’t understand totally.” It’s very clear, and more ‘how you live your life and how you see things.’ It’s wisdom and compassion, very direct. That’s why it’s very appropriate for everybody. I personally feel like this, and I think many others do, too. If you study the Mahayana teachings, there is nothing where you would say, “This is totally wrong. I don’t agree at all. This is beyond me. I don’t know what this is about.” It’s not like that: It’s very clear and reasonable and understandable. Therefore, people who have a problem with Vajrayana can practice Mahayana and Mahayana alone, and it’s as good.
But those who have more understanding and more of a connection with Vajrayana, they can include Vajrayana teachings in the Mahayana very easily. And it’s very advised. That’s how the Tibetans do. They take the Mahayana as the basis and on top of that bring the Vajrayana techniques in it, and that’s how they practice. And that’s supposed to be very effective.
In the daily practice, the main thing is that it has to be clear what the purpose of the practice is; otherwise it’s of no use. We have to know that it’s to work on ourselves. The practice is - of course, for other beings and generating compassion and wisdom - but what we call practice, we have to do on ourselves: “I am my practice.” I call it “I am my practice” because I work on my myself and my problems, my way of seeing and my understanding and habitual tendencies; so therefore it’s my practice.
Therefore, I have to work on my emotions, my habitual tendencies, and my way of reacting. How do I work? What is the tool of my practice? The only tool of my practice is my mindfulness. What we mean by mindfulness is trying to be aware of what’s going on. That combined with the understandings of how to do things, how things are, my understanding background – that’s the practice.
That’s how I practice; with mindfulness.
This mindfulness is the basic thing, trying to be aware of what is going on. With that, I work on myself, remind myself. I bring in more awareness and consciousness. And if I forget, or if negative things come in, or if I am distracted, then I become mindful again, I remember, I use it again - that’s how I practice. There is nothing else you can do. Only this mindfulness is the tool.
What is it that I have to be mindful about? I have to be mindful of what is going on in my mind, of how I am reacting, of how my emotions and thoughts are going, and of how I am acting with my body, speech and mind which is affecting myself and other people as well. That’s what I have to watch: That’s what I have to watch. This is how I practice in a general way.
It’s good to have a formal practice, too; because generally, life is practice. I sometimes say practice doesn’t need time, only discipline. Sometimes we say, “I have no time to practice dharma.” I say that’s not the point. You don’t need any time, because you don’t need any time to be angry. You don’t need a special time to be upset or unhappy. You can’t say, “I don’t have any time to be upset and angry and have problems.” Therefore, you don’t need time to practice because those emotions and feelings come and you are aware of it and deal with that – that’s the practice. It’s not about time. But if you make a little time and then use it as time to practice, it’s good; because that time you can take away. You can say, “This is my practice time.”
I actually sometimes say: “You don’t say this is my practice time. You say this is my resting time. This is my time off.” Because when you say this is my practice time, thenit becomes like work: “This is my practice time. Oh, it’s almost my practice time. Again, my practice time! I have to sit down. When will this practice time be finished!? so I can jump up and run towards my TV!” Then it becomes not so good.
But if you take it as time off - my mind needs some rest, my body needs some relaxation. My mind is working round the clock, twenty four hours a day and 60 minutes an hour. It’s continuous, very busy; even sleeping your mind is at work. So there’s no rest, especially if there is something going on like tension; then it is even more. We need to rest. We need to relax.
So it’s good for me to have a break, to have a little time off; it’s good for my mind to relax a little bit for my physical and spiritual health; and also that I don’t make others around me unhappy and disturbed. I take a little bit of time off; that’s a good idea.
During that time, you do the practice, meditation. You can start the day, the practice, with a reminder: What am I doing here? What is it for? What is the purpose? And the purpose is the motivation: the bodhicitta. You can say the Four Limitless prayers; you can take bodhisattva vows, if you have taken it. The basic thing is, I wish good for myself, and I wish good for everybody. If I can do something that brings lasting peace and happiness for all the beings, then that’s the ultimate good thing that I can do; and that’s the best thing that can happen. Therefore, I wish that I could do something towards that end. To do that, I work on myself, I try to help a little bit here and there and wherever I can.
That would be my ultimate goal. And within that ultimate goal, then I train myself, I work on myself, I help others in the short term; I help others in the long term and their problems, and things like that; that’s what I have to do. This practice I do, also, is part of that.
I make this generation of compassion; I inspire myself by saying that I wish all the beings to be free of suffering, of all types of suffering, small ones, big ones.
And I wish not only that they are free from suffering, but I wish them the best and highest lasting peace and happiness, all the time – not for a short time.
That, I wish for every being, not excluding anyone.
Towards that end, my prayers, my actions, my training - I should do like that. Therefore, I work on that line. It’s a very, very big project, and there’s nothing wrong to have a big project. The purpose should be very big: The bigger the the better.
That doesn’t mean that I become totally frustrated, run down or burnt out. That’s not happening. It’s not like that. When I have this long term, ultimate purpose, I know it’s not a simple thing; I know it’s not a short term thing; I know it’s not an easy thing. Therefore, I get a certain kind of patience, that I can’t hurry too much. I have to prepare: I have lots of problems and hurdles. That’s okay. That’s natural. So I don’t get frustrated too much.
With that intention, then you think of all the beings; and if you are doing things in the Vajrayana way – as I think many of you have done Ngöndro or certain Vajrayana visualization practices – then, you can think about all the great beings of the past. The refuge tree is actually thinking of all the great beings of the past.
Sometimes the drawings are particular, like the Karma Kagyu tree; and you have Vajradhara and the Karma Kagyu lineage, their yidams and protectors and things like that. It’s not necessary only to be exactly like that. Usually the refuge tree has to be very inclusive meaning anybody who was anybody is in there. It is a reminder of all the great beings of the past, bodhisattvas, Buddhas, who worked for well beings of others, who have compassion and great wisdom - everybody who is like that. You kind of feel their presence, and think about them; because when you are thinking about them - what happens when you think of a Buddha or bodhisattva? What happens is this: It’s a concept but it is an important concept – You think, “What is the identity of a bodhisattva?” The bodhisattva is a person with great compassion. So when you are thinking of someone with great compassion, your mind is involved or focused. It’s influenced with compassion: That compassionate being is your projection. Who is thinking about this compassionate being? I am thinking about it. So therefore I am actually exercising my compassion. So when I feel the refuge tree, it doesn’t matter if it is a big complicated thing or if I am thinking of one thing, like a Buddha image of the Buddha Shakyamuni. That’s why we sometimes do the Guru Yoga on our teacher as the embodiment of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. These things don’t matter: It doesn’t matter at all how you do it. That’s why there are so many ways – because it doesn’t matter.
The main thing is the idea behind it. How you do it, what color you do it, how it looks, what kind of clothes it’s wearing – it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
Many of you know this story if you have been to my teachings before – even if it has been only once!
It is said that once a man was dying in Kham, Tibet. He was not a very religious person. He was a kind of wild Khampa. The lamas came and said, “Now you are dying. Think about the lamas and the Buddhas and Amitabha.”
He said, “None of those things come to my mind.”
They said, “But what comes to your mind when you are dying?”
“Oh, the only thing that comes to my mind are sizzling sausages,” he said. Djusap tengo in Tibetan means hot sausages cooked in ashes.
Then the lamas said, “In that case, that’s very good! In the pure Buddha realm of Amitabha, there are trees growing with sizzlers! And they are hanging on the branches. You just have to open your mouth and they fall down. Amitabha is also there. He is the color of ash because he has eaten so many sizzlers.” I don’t think he said that – but anyway!
They said, “Why not think of the pure realm, full of buddhas and bodhisattvas, with sizzlers?”
So through thinking of good things and different associations with compassion, he could let go of the sizzlers and die in a peaceful way.
It is a recommended way – not necessarily with sizzlers – and it’s an example to show how these kinds of things are not absolute. What has been described does not “have to be taken like this and no other way is possible.” It’s not like that. It has to do with the purpose. It’s not that the visualization has to be with certain robes, or has to have a certain decoration: It’s not like that. It’s mainly the concept or idea of it, the bodhisattvas and Buddhas with total compassion and wisdom.
Bodhisattvas are said to be unacquainted friends. You never met this person but still he is your best friend - that theory - always wanting and wishing to help, only wishing for good things. Therefore, whether you know them or not, whether you are good to them or not, whether you are harming or helping them, or whether you are praying to them or not - it doesn’t matter - he is always your friend - that kind of understanding and feeling. And when you have that feeling of all the great beings – then, you have the feeling of all the sentient beings being around and you think of them, all beings throughout space, strangers that you don’t know, those who are close to you, and those who are not close to you meaning not very nice to you, enemies or people with whom things don’t go well – you think of all of them, and take refuge for all of them, “I wish for all of them to be free from samsara, to receive the blessings and transform.”
In the Vajrayana practice you visualize and feel that. You don’t have to say it in words – although you can if you wish – but feel that the blessings, transformation lights, and healing lights coming from all the great enlightened Buddhas and bodhisattvas is received and touches all the sentient beings. That is purifying these beings of the negatives, the causes and results of suffering. The causes are the negative deeds, delusion, ignorance and negative emotions. The result is problems, pain and suffering. We feel that all the sentient beings become purified and then transform - actually feel that they have been transformed and that they all attain lasting peace and happiness. You feel like they have become like those Buddhas in a way and remain in that. When you can feel that, that every being has been transformed and purified and has become calm, clear, compassionate and wise – then, what is happening to your mind?When I think that everyone is like that, I cannot be something else. In a round about way - or in a direct way - I am feeling that. That’s why we call it a direct method.
If you say, “All beings are suffering and have problems and I wish them to get out of it,” you are concentrating on suffering and problems; and when you are concentrating on the problems, suffering and negative situations, then your mind is also like that. You are feeling bad.
On the other hand, when you feel like everyone has been healed and transformed, then you are feeling the same, the positive side of it. Therefore you are not only practically allowing your compassion to free all the beings which is exercising to do something, not just thinking about it – but you also exercise feeling the effect of being totally purified. That is the important thing. This kind of thing – that’s the Vajrayana. That – a little bit of that kind. Then you relax. Then do a little bit of shamata meditation, which is also called calming down meditation. This itself can be a calming down meditation; because calming down meditation is letting your mind calm down and letting your mind relax. If my mind is thinking of the presence of the great beings, completely calm, completely compassionate, and enlightened – I feel that: Then I am also feeling that. I just let my mind a little bit focus on that – not too much – and then relax, not necessarily remember all the time.
Also, I feel that all the sentient beings around me have become totally transformed and nice. That’s also shamata meditation because I let that happen, and I relax in that way. And when I feel my mind is distracted and all sorts of thoughts come - I come back to that. So therefore, this itself can be a calming down meditation; because in calming down meditation you can focus on anything. It doesn’t matter. It’s not necessary that you only focus on your breathing, or only focus on one thing. You can also change the focus. It can be on a general feeling. It’s just that you mind is calm and clear and relaxed. Relax, as I said many times before is important. Letting it happening – that’s relaxing. Not controlling too much. Because when you say, “I have to relax,” most people cannot relax because you are controlling. Then you don’t relax. Relax is not controlling. Relax is letting go of controlling.
So that’s the first thing.
This doesn’t need be that long. It is according to your time whether you can spend more time or less time – it’s okay. And if you don’t have much time, then that’s enough; then a little bit of shamata with the understanding that the day will be your practice. Just to calm down and the day will be your practice: how to let go, how to purify, helping a little bit here and there as much as you can, doing something good in the day. Sometimes, this becomes the best practice, that I would like to do something good, something that’s useful and helpful to somebody, at least one thing a day.
I heard that once someone who was a total invalid was unhappy with a lot of self pity and was very depressed. Then, at a certain stage she realized that it was not necessary to feel so helpless. “Even if I am in this situation, I can do something, which would be nice or good to somebody in some way.” Then she made a promise to do at least one good thing every day without fail, even if it was very little. She said that since then, she has never had any depression or self pity. She was too busy to feel bad at all.
It’s like that.
When we think of other’s problems, and we can do something about that and work on that, we feel good. We feel purposeful. It’s not only that it’s doing good for others, it’s also good now and good later. Even when we are doing it; even if it’s good for your ego – a little bit of ego is okay, I think. Sometimes we say you should not have any ego – of course, you should not have any ego ideally; you should not be selfish or those motives, ideally, in order to be a great Bodhisattva. But we all have ego, whether we like it or not. Therefore, if I feel good because I did something good, what’s wrong? It’s okay. So a little bit feeling good, feeling proud is okay. Also see in our body, in our speech, in our mind - thoughts and emotions, those not good for myself and others – we try to be aware; and when those things come up, then we relax.
It’s not like we have to watch all the time and do nothing else. You don’t have to be like that. Sometimes people who are very new to the practice do that. New monks and new nuns sometimes are very good – too good - not one mistake. That’s too much. A little bit, watch your thoughts and watch your mind and see what’s going on. And if it’s okay, not too bad, then you congratulate yourself. I think it’s very important to congratulate ourselves. If I don’t appreciate myself, who will? Because no one is going to appreciate. It’s totally useless to expect others to appreciate you. There’s no use. No need. They will not. So you have to appreciate yourself. Then, feel happy about it. Rejoice for yourself. Rejoicing is a good thing; and if others are doing a good job, rejoice for them.
If something not so good is going on, you purify, you let go. We talked about this, purification and accumulation; negative things, you let go. You try not to do them anymore; but even if you have to do them sometimes, lessen it, or make it as little as possible. If you feel negative emotions, you relax and say, “This is no use. This is not good for me or others.” So you work on it.
That would be the main practice, the day. But if you have some more time, then you can use other things like Tonglen practice, which is very good. If you have a certain practice like Ngöndro, or a Yidam, or something you have learned - many of you have done Mahamudra courses and things like that – then, use those practices, not just during the practice time but also in the day. Any and all of the practices are to work on your mind, your emotions, your habitual tendencies, your compassion and wisdom. These can be used at any time. It’s not necessary that every time you start to practice that you remember and say the Tibetan, (exaggerated and loud) “Dorje Chang…!” (Laughs) You don’t have to do that! You have to get the understanding behind and use that. That is the practice.
Dedication - The greater the dedication, the greater the practice
At the end of the practice - and the formal one as well - do the dedication. It is a very important practice, especially from the Mahayana point of view. The greater the dedication, the greater the practice, so they say. Even if you don’t do too much practice, you make a great dedication! (Laughs) Yeah, that’s how you do it! You say:
Make it very big and very great. That’s multiplying your positive deeds. That’s exercising you intention to give, your compassion.
“This practice I did for five minutes, for ten minutes, for twenty minutes – it doesn’t matter – all the positive things coming out of it, and all the positive things I have done in this life and all the lives before me, and the positive things I will be doing in the future – all of them put together – that positive result, I share it, I give it, I dedicate it to each and every being, so that they have lasting peace and happiness, and all the possible good things, now and in the long run. May they get enlightened quickly; and until then may they have all the good things, peace in the world, prosperity, health, and everything that goes with it. All of these good results, all the positives from the beginning to the end, I dedicate so that each being will get the total result. I do my best to dedicate in the grandest way. The great Bodhisattvas, Manjushri and others were dedication experts. I take their example and dedicate as everyone has dedicated so far; from the first Buddha to my teacher, all the great masters, all the great beings - whatever good they have wished for all beings, may they all happen because of my positive deeds.
Then you can get up and do your thing, whatever.
We also do this at the end of the day, when we are about to go to sleep. We do the same: We think about what we have done. All those things which were not so nice, we purify, we let go, we forgive, nothing that we have to keep on; because it is neither good for me or anybody else. So therefore, I let go. I clear my mind, I clear my brain, I have no more negative feelings left: I purify. That’s the purification. Then, all the good things that happened, I appreciate and dedicate to all the sentient beings like I did in the morning. And then, I am clear. I put my head down, and in two seconds go to sleep! (Laughs) You know, get a nice strong, deep sleep. And sleep at least nine hours a day. That’s what I do. Then have naps in the daytime! (Laughs) I am joking!
That’s the practice.
And in the days and months ahead, sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. That’s okay. You have to take it like that. Sometimes you are inspired and nice and everything is good; and sometimes not and everything goes bad. That’s nothing you have to be too upset about. It’s like that, like the weather; one day up and you enjoy it, and one day not so nice and you don’t have to be too negative about it. That makes the stability. Stability comes when you are not too upset when things don’t go so well; you know that it is okay and that there are ups and downs.
When you lose inspiration, sometimes it is good to read or listen to inspiring teachings, like Milarepa’s songs. In Tibetan we read Milarepa’s songs, or Patrul Rinpoche’s poems. Of course it depends on the translation. If it is a good translation, it is inspiring. If it is not a good translation, then it is like chewing on Tibetan cheese. (Laughs) You know Tibetan cheese. We have a cheese that’s exactly like a stone. It doesn’t have any taste and it’s very hard! And it can break your teeth. It’s not in Kham. I first had it in Lhasa, “Why am I eating this?” (Laughs) It hurts your teeth. It hurts your tongue. It hurts your gums. But you get used to it, and after that you have to get it all the time, continuously. It is said to be good while climbing mountains. Anyway – that’s beside the point. Maybe that’s all. That’s it! (Laughs)
It is said if you eat this cheese, your teeth become very strong. We will export some. (Laughter) If you have Tibetan lamas, you can have Tibetan cheese, too.
Edited and compiled by Karma Thondup
© Dr. Ringu Tulku