by His Holiness Sakya Trizin


We  humans require many things, have many things to accomplish, 
and so forth. But it is clear no matter how much we have or 
wherever we are, there is not enough; always there is some more 
requirement, always dissatisfaction. Through our experience the 
truth is very clear in  what Lord Buddha said about samsara's 
entirety being nothing but  suffering nature.

So what we can do? The one thing common to all is everyone wishes 
to be free from suffering and wishes to have happiness. And for 
the sake of this everyone is making effort in worldly spiritual 
or other ways. But no matter what we do there is no end to 
suffering and no gain of the happiness we  seek. 

So how can we get this? Lord Buddha teaches that every sentient 
being possesses buddha-nature. The true nature of our mind is 
pure. Right from the beginning it is never stained with 
obscurations of any form. Therefore if we try we can  attain  

At the moment we do not see this buddha-nature, being completely 
covered with obscurations. But the obscurations are not within 
the   nature of the mind. If they were they could never be 
eliminated. For example the nature of coal is black, so no matter 
how much you wash it,  coal will never become white. Due to dirt 
the whiteness of a white cloth is not seen, but with correct 
methods we can wash then see the actual colour.  Similarly the 
obscurations in our minds are only at the outer level and with 
the right methods, could be eliminated. Therefore if we work hard 
following the Dharma path we can become fully enlightened 

For these reasons, the most important thing is  spiritual 
practice, because all  other things such as  material wealth or  
power are  only beneficial within this lifespan. The day  we 
leave  this world we have to leave everything behind - our 
wealth, friends, even our precious body. Only consciousness is 
left, and when it leaves  all we can rely on is  spiritual 

When we face major problems, there is a vast difference between 
the person who has spiritual ideas and the one who does not. When 
the person  without  any spiritual assistance faces such 
sufferings they are in a desperate situation and have to rely on 
other very wrong methods, perhaps having to take extreme 
measures. One of the basic teachings of Buddha is that everything 
created by cause and conditions is impermanent. And any actions 
connected with defilements are sufferings. So when we face such 
problems it is obvious it is not something just happening to us, 
but impermanence and suffering are the nature of existence 

When one  understands that, even though the problem may be the 
same, the person who has  spiritual assistance  is ready to face 
it because he knows it's the nature. Due to this it lessens the 
mental burden. And when one's mental burden is lessened outer 
physical suffering is also, because  mind is the boss and the 
body like a servant. If the mind is happy,  even one could be in 
the poorest conditions but still be happy. And if the mind is not 
happy even one has  the best facilities still one has a lot of 
misery.  So since the mind is the most important, to give us  
strength to face the challenges of suffering even for this life, 
the most important thing is  Dharma practice. 

Although we are all human beings, each one has a different mind, 
different defilements and so forth. In order to suit every level 
of our minds the Buddha bestowed an enormous amount of teachings. 
One kind of teaching is not enough. Just as we require many medi-
cines in order to cure the different types of disease,  similarly 
in order to help the limitless sentient beings, the Buddha also 
gave many many teachings. 

Generally speaking there are two different types of followers - 
the followers who wish to follow the smaller goal, and the 
followers who wish to follow the greater goal. That is why we 
have the two yanas of hinayana and mahayana. Although the 
hinayana path   has many teachings, what in essence   is most 
important is not to harm any sentient being. If one harms any 
sentient being physically or mentally, it is not right. 

The mahayana path is not only non-harming but also  benefitting 
as much as one can, because each and every sentient being is like 
ourself. From our own experience we can learn how much we wish to 
be free from suffering and wish to have happiness. From tiny 
insects to the most intelligent humans up to the deva realms, 
every sentient being has the same feeling: all wish to be free 
from suffering and to have happiness. Therefore it is not proper  
just to think of oneself, because oneself is one person and 
others are countless. Between one and many  which is more 
important? The many is more important. Besides that,  on  selfish 
thoughts good things never arise - only sufferings arise.  

Shantideva said, "All sufferings in this universe came from 
caring for oneself." If we think of ourself we have jealousy, 
pride, stinginess, desire, hatred etc. All  impure thoughts 
arise, and any actions created with these impure thoughts create 
only sufferings. Just  as from a poisonous root anything that 
grows is poison, similarly any actions created from these de-
filements are only suffering. So when we think of ourselves only, 
all we can achieve is more suffering. 

Shantideva also said that all the happiness in this universe came 
from wanting others to be happy. If we wish others to be happy 
then all the good things, all the qualities come, just  as if a 
root  is medicinal, anything that grows from it is medicine. 
Similarly  on the basis of loving-kindness and compassion, 
wanting to help other sentient beings,  any actions that are 
created are happiness. That is why the root of the mahayana 
teachings is  loving kindness and the compassion. Therefore we 
must try in every way to cultivate loving-kindness and 

However merely having compassion is not enough, we must rescue 
sentient beings from suffering and put them onto the path of 
happiness. But at the moment we ourselves are not free, we do not 
have full knowledge or full power. We are completely bound by our 
karma and defilements. So how can we help? The sole most effec-
tive way  to help sentient beings is to attain perfect 
enlightenment, because having attained perfect enlightenment then 
even during a single moment we can rescue countless sentient 

This perfect enlightenment does not arise without  proper cause 
and conditions, and that is  following the mahayana path. First 
is to have a very sincere wish to attain the perfect 
enlightenment,  then one practises, the main thing being method 
and wisdom. In order to fly one needs two wings.  Similarly in 
order to attain enlightenment one needs two: the method to 
realise the wisdom, and the wisdom itself. And they depend on 
each other. Method means to accumulate  merit like generosity, 
moral conduct, patience, endeavour, and concentration. Loving-
kindness and compassion will only suppress  faults because the 
main fault is self-clinging, and these method practices only 
supress self-clinging. In order to completely dig out the root of 
self-clinging  we require the wisdom that  completely eliminates 
it, and for this  we must have concentration. With these two 
together  we will be able to attain perfect enlightenment. 

Many people say  it's very difficult to practise Dharma 
particularly in  big cities where there is so much distraction 
and  busyness.  However, Lord Buddha gave many teachings, the 
purpose of which was to tame our wild minds. It is due to our 
wild mind being so involved with   defilements, that from the 
begining we have been caught in the realm of existence and 
suffer.  We've already suffered so much in the past, are still 
suffering and furthermore if we do not work now we will 
continuously experience suffering. So therefore the Buddha gave 
teachings involving many different forms of practising, but all 
these are to tame our minds. 

The sanskrit word "dharma" has many different meanings but the 
word generally means to change, to change  our impure or wild 
mind that is so involved with the defilements, to change it to 
the right path. So every practice we do if it doesn't change, 
(although of course even just doing the practice has benefit), it 
is not so effective. In order to be effective, we must see 
whether the practice we are doing really makes a difference in 
our mind or not. 

If it changes our mind, then  if we use it in the right way we 
could be the busiest person in the busiest city but still be a 
very good Dharma practitioner because everything we see and do, 
everyone we associate with, gives us a chance to practise Dharma.

For example when travelling in  cities and noticing many changes,  
that is impermanence. When we see so much suffering, we are 
experiencing the Dharma  that Buddha tells us, ie that  
everything is suffering. The fact we actually see it with our own 
naked eyes, means we also learn from that. When we  associate 
with people we have a chance to help, to practise compassion. 
When people disturb or are angry with us, it gives  a chance to 
practise patience. So if we could utilize our everyday life, then 
everywhere when we are travelling,  at work or at home, we could 
use it in practising  Dharma. 

From these different experiences it will help us to understand 
deeper, and how important it is to practise Dharma.  Higher 
meditations like concentration and insight are very important. 
But in order to reach that level, the basic foundations such as 
the difficulty of obtaining the precious human birth, 
impermanence and death, the cause of karma, and the suffering of 
samsara - ie the four common foundations - are very important. 
These you can learn from a teacher and read in  books. 

However to gain  knowledge is not enough. If we  have known it 
for a long time but it hasn't made  any change in us, we still 
remain the same person. We still have  anger, we still cannot 
practise Dharma. Although  we must have heard  the difficulties 
of obtaining the precious human birth a hundred times, if it 
hasn't made any change - we are still in the same level, we still 
have the defilements, we still are not practising. Why? Because 
we do not experience it. 

So, knowing it and through contemplation having the experience, 
are two different things. One may know many teachings but if one 
doesn't practise, if one doesn't use it in one's daily life, then 
it is not right. For example the purpose of making delicious food  
is to eat it. If you make  but don't eat it there is no point! 
Similarly knowing Dharma is to utilize it in our daily life. To 
do this we have to use many different methods including our daily 

With these basic foundations, if we could not only understand 
everything we see as a teaching but have an inner feeling, inner 
urge,  then we would not waste our time. We would definitely make 
every effort, just as  people in prison have constantly only one 
thought, "when can I get out of this? " When you have this real 
sincere desire to practise Dharma your inner higher meditations 
will generally arise. 

First to have the basic foundations depends on our merit. In  
past lives due to   accumulating merit, we are born in this life 
as human beings, have the good fortune to hear the Dharma, and a 
chance to practise. Similarly  in order to have  real inner 
feeling about spiritual practice depends on the merit we have. So 
at the same time we must accumulate merit through prayers, 
devotion to the Guru and to the Buddha Dharma Sangha, and through 
practising  loving-kindness and compassion to all sentient 
beings. In this way when our merit increases also our wisdom 
increases, and these two go together. When the merit is fully 
built up the wisdom will also come, and with the merit and wisdom 
together one will be able to succeed in the path. 

(From a talk by His Holiness Sakya Trizin at 
Jamyang Meditation Centre, 3/10/91)