Thoughts," from a teaching by Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso
The first part of Ngöndro practice is spent
contemplating "The Four Thoughts" that turn the mind toward the practice.
These are: the preciousness of this human birth; impermanence and the
certainty of death; the defects of this worldly life ("samsara"); and the
principle of cause and effect ("karma"). Here Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso
Rinpoche speaks about "The Four Thoughts" in the context of the importance
of actual practice.
The Four Thoughts that turn the mind from samsara are very
important. Our minds are distracted by this world. We practice a little
bit, and then get distracted thinking life is good, eating pizza in the
restaurant, going to the beach on weekends and enjoying ourselves. It is
really nice. You could have a very happy life with your family, eating
and experiencing all those happy experiences. At the end of life, if you
do not continue to have that kind of happiness in the next lifetime and
many future lifetimes, you may get a little upset and think, "I should
have done something. I have just been going to the beach, the mountains,
camping, bungee jumping, and all that. I've spent my time doing all
that, but I really didn't do anything."
Since you have a
precious human birth, you should not waste it. If you waste this time,
then you are wasting something very great. Even were you to waste a
billion dollars, it doesn't matter. You can make it up. You can do
something, and you can make it up. But if you waste this precious human
birth, it is very, very difficult. You cannot make it up.
since you have a precious human rebirth, you must immediately think that
you should not waste it. You should think, "I have to get some advantage
from this opportunity. Then how can I do it?" By thinking that all
phenomena which are composed of cause and condition are impermanent.
Impermanence does not just mean that everything comes to an end.
Impermanence means that each and every moment is impermanent. Each and
every moment of our lives we are becoming older and older, we are
getting nearer and nearer to death. If you waste even one hour, that is
one hour closer to death. If you spend your weekend enjoying yourself,
still you are getting nearer to death. Whenever you sit idle, still you
are getting nearer to death. Even if you do practice, still you are
getting nearer to death. Even if you don't do anything, still you are
getting nearer to death. You are always getting nearer and nearer and
nearer. Every sentient being who is born is subject to death.
the same time, death is uncertain. You can see many examples of the many
conditions that may bring death. If I could not do actual practice and
if I did not have something I could carry with me, then tonight if
something happens, what can I do? What are you really going to carry
with you? You cannot pack up like when you get divorced or when you get
mad at your friends, and you say you're going to leave, and you take
your suitcase and pack all your clothes and everything and whatever
money and credit cards you have and you leave and go some other place.
When death comes, you cannot do that. There is no way that one could do
that. Up until now in this world, even the great popes, even Milarepa,
even Shakyamuni Buddha, even His Holiness Karmapa and Dilgo Khyentse
Rinpoche, all of these masters left all their belongings behind. All the
great ones and not so great ones, when death came, nobody could pack
anything, nobody could carry anything along. You could not even make a
phone call: "I'm coming very soon, so could you please reserve a place
for me?" There is no way one can do it. So you have to realize that life
is like that.
So we need to understand the fault of samsara. We
need to understand that in samsara, as we explained, there is some
enjoyment, some peace, which distracts our minds and keeps us from
having any accumulation of merit or purification. It is just like in
Christianity, where in the beginning God said there is a very nice apple
tree, but you should not get distracted and eat of it. If you do, then
you will get spoiled. By not listening to that and eating the apple, all
evil and bad things happened. Just like that, in this world there are
certain things that really feel attractive, but when you look at the
object of attraction and really examine it deeply, there is nothing
which can be attractive. It is just like a magician's creation which
looks very real, but when you approach nearer to it, then you see that
it is artificial with no essence.
When you have a clear
understanding of these four thoughts, you could have some kind of
feeling that you have to do some practice. This world looks so
attractive, but it doesn't have any essence, like the rainbow. The
rainbow looks so colorful, so nice, and you have so much desire and
attachment. You really want to have it, but when you jump up to get it,
you cannot get anything. Then you feel very sad and get so depressed:
"Why can't I have some of this beautiful rainbow?" You get upset, but
nothing happens. All these worldly pleasures are exactly like a rainbow.
When you really enter into them, there is nothing there to
That is why one must have a deeper understanding of cyclic
existence. Then you can become more relaxed and have more enjoyment,
thinking how attractive everything is, but having no attachment to it,
not having desire, while at the same time enjoying but not creating any
negative karma, and being more relaxed because you don't have to try to
get anything. Whether you get something or not, you just relax. If you
can't get it, you won't feel depressed because you know that it has no
Those who could not do this Ngöndro practice may think
not this year, maybe next year or some other year, and when you have
already finished ten years of complete practice, then they say, "Oh, we
were actually together at that time, but then I didn't have time. I went
to there and there and there. You finished it all? I didn't really start
it." So then they're way down at the the bottom of the practice, while
their friends are at the top.
Right now you have a full
opportunity. You can really apply yourself into some practice. Even if
you could not get everything purified, at least you are going to purify
something. Even if you do one prostration, still there is some
karma that is erased, even though you cannot see it. So for the
practice, whatever difficulties or small amount of pain arise, if you
can bear it through the practice, it is worthwhile kind of pain that is
bearable so that one can have some kind of purification. This is a great
opportunity since you are interested, and you must have created some
kind of good karma and accumulated some merit. That is why it is
happening in this way. So this is something very great and wonderful and
amazing that could heal yourself and benefit your family and relatives
and all sentient beings. That is something really, really wonderful!
Ngöndro | Mandala
|"The Four Thoughts" are described in
detail in a book by Patrul Rinpoche known as Words of My Perfect
Teacher. This summer, Khenpo Tsewang Gyatso will begin a series
of commentaries on the text. It is advised that students read this
classic book in any case should they wish to undertake Ngöndro
practice. You can order this book from Snow Lion (and thereby some
of your purchase will go to the center) by clicking here.
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