Program Winter Retreat
12.01.00 - 12.03.00
Laying the Foundation
First, I would like to
express my gratitude to all of you for coming here for this event, and
for participating in the DAP. This is the fourth DAP event we have held
since we started a year ago. This first year we have focused on the
fundamental teachings of the Buddha Dharma to explore how samsara has
come into being, why we suffer, and what are the causes of our
suffering. We have spent a lot of time on mindfulness training and the
eightfold path in order to address these issues.
In the next few months
we are going to synthesize this approach into a summary of the Hinayana
path. Practicing the
fundamental teachings is like laying the foundation of one's Dharma
practice. Imagine your Dharma practice is like building a house. Without
a strong foundation it is like building a house on ice. It may look fancy but it is
going to collapse when the ice eventually thaws due to extreme weather
Sometimes I think we may
have too much spiritual pride to admit that we are practicing the lowest
vehicle. Sometimes people who practice Vajrayana Buddhism have trouble
thinking they're practicing the lower path. It is defeating to their
spiritual identity. But this isn't the lower path. It's the foundation, recognizing
egolessness. Even if we don't think about becoming Buddha, or a
Vidyadhara, even if we just want to be a happy person, we have to
practice virtuous deeds and mindfulness. To overcome our hope and fear,
which is the source of our suffering that is deeply rooted in our
consciousness, we must practice being in the moment, regardless of
whether our motivation on the spiritual path is simply to be happy or to
actualize our Buddha potential.
We have been practicing
vipassana meditation, raising questions to ourselves, such as "Am I
happy? Am I suffering? What are my karmic issues? What habitual
tendencies keep me bound to a false self-image?" Our vipassana
meditation isn't any particular practice. It compliments any other
practice we may be doing, whether we are practicing ati yoga or
mahamudra or even following different spiritual traditions like Sufism
or Christianity. Mindfulness meditation exists in every spiritual
tradition, though they may not call it by that name in particular. Regardless of what we call it,
in order to experience the results of a lasting peace and happiness in
our lives, we have to practice it. Laying this foundation of mindfulness
is the basis for a radical spiritual transformation in our lives.
The point is that our
commitment is to ourselves, that we address our issues honestly using
this method of self-inquiry to create and sustain a continuity of
mindfulness in our lives, which is the path and the goal of our
During this retreat, I
would like for us to explore our meditation practice experientially,
rather than intellectually.
Sitting meditation is a great gift we can give to ourselves, and
sometimes I wish we would just do that in our sessions together.
Meditation is a very simple exercise in paying attention and does not
require extensive knowledge, which can actually be a hindrance. If we
sit long enough, instead of chasing after the meditation with concepts
about meditation and what we think we should be doing in order to
meditate successfully, meditation will chase after us. So I'd like for
us to do lots of sitting meditation this weekend.
You may ask, "Why come
here? Everyone knows how to sit, and we could do it at home." But,
without a catalyst like this, we find it hard to make the time because
of procrastination and laziness. In Tibet, we call these the two
greatest dangers to spiritual realization.
Conviction in Our Buddha Essence
something to be explored in this lifetime. It's not something to be
achieved in the future or in the next lifetime. According to Vajrayana
Buddhism, we have this potential to become the primordial Buddha
Vajradhara in one lifetime, whether we are a saint or a sinner, wealthy
or poor, man or woman. All human beings have this natural gift of
becoming Buddha, so we must have faith in this essential truth. We must have confidence that we
can become enlightened, that we can actualize who we are, in this very
There is a wonderful
teaching by Dudjom Lingpa, Buddhahood Without Meditation,
that says that enlightenment is not some far-off Buddhafield, not a
utopian place where we can be reborn in the next lifetime. Enlightenment
is when you become awakened to your true nature, which exists within
each of us, in this moment, in this place where we sit. This comes through awakening to
our bak chak, our habitual tendencies, that we have carried through
It is important to
remind ourselves that we have Buddha essence. I was giving a Dharma talk in
Maui and I said, "All sentient beings have Buddha essence." One person responded by saying,
"I've heard this many times, but could you talk more about practices and
techniques instead?" But this is an important point. We have to have conviction that
we have Buddha essence before we can rely on practices to liberate us,
otherwise, how will we know what the aim of our practice is? Without
that conviction there will always be subtle levels of hindrance, and we
will not know how to practice properly. We have to cultivate this
essence in order to become enlightened. If we rely on techniques our
spiritual practice becomes mechanical.
I think in many
lifetimes we have each been monks, nuns, even saints. But through all of
this spiritual experience we remain as sentient beings, as deluded persons because we
have not completely recognized our Buddha essence. Even though each of
us have been meditators in past lifetimes we remain as sentient beings
even now. So you see that
becoming a monk or nun, or becoming a spiritual practitioner doesn't
guarantee that we are going to be enlightened.
Sentient being means
deluded being. Buddha means awakened being. Buddhism is about developing
absolute conviction in our enlightened essence. Once we have that
confidence we can undergo a spiritual transformation in one life
time. We want to awaken, to
have an inner metamorphosis.
That is the ultimate desire of people in spiritual practice. We
want to change and have this revolutionary transformation.
Dharma in Tibetan is
chhö, which means transformation.
How can we have change in our life? It doesn't have to do so much
with saying prayers or practicing meditation, though prayer and
meditation are useful tools if used properly. What is essential to this
transformation is the overcoming of all doubt that we can attain this
inner freedom. Doubt is the
greatest inner hindrance preventing us from realizing who we are. When
we live in doubt, we are not on the spiritual highway, we are on the
exit. In Tibet, they say that Golok is the country of barbarians. Without courage you can never go
there. And Amdo is the
country of horses. Without
a horse you can never get anywhere. Perhaps because I'm from Golok
I'm sort of lawless and want all of us to drive straight up the middle
of the highway.
We begin the journey to
enlightenment the moment we have confidence in our Buddha nature.
can we develop faith in our Buddha nature?
of the ways to cultivate our essence is to take refuge in Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha. In my own experience I am inspired by my own gurus,
my tsawai (root) lamas. By
taking them as my spiritual guides, they become reflections of my Buddha
nature, which serves as a catalyst to dispel delusion in my life. If
they can be enlightened perhaps I can be enlightened too. It is very easy to have doubt
about yourself sometimes, but having a spiritual guide is a great way
live in inspiration, to remove these doubts. This is why the tsawai lama
in Vajrayana Buddhism is so important.
Another way to develop faith is to habitually
remind yourself that you have Buddha nature. When you doubt yourself, and
have an inner crisis, remind yourself that you have Buddha nature. We
also have to recognize that our doubt is wrong view. It is a
misperception of who we are, but we are so familiar with this wrong way
of perceiving that is seems valid to us because we've been stuck with
it, in it, for many lifetimes.
When we practice the
eightfold path, we talk about going beyond wrong view. Wrong view is having
misperceptions about who we are, about our ability to be enlightened,
about the quality of ourselves simply as human beings. We are tortured
by an abstract concept that is the false self, the sense of "I," which
is habitually reinforced by our hope and fear. This in turn leads us to
think that the phenomenon we experience is real, because it appears as
separate from ourselves. This is a distortion of the deluded mind, and
this misperception leads us into the constant search for happiness where
happiness does not exist, and so we suffer in our failed attempts to
make ourselves happy through inundating our senses with temporary forms
of pleasure. Wrong views prevent us from looking within ourselves for
the source of our suffering, which is also the source of our
We also have to have
trust in the sacred teachings of the Buddha. This is very
important. We have to have
critical intelligence to discern the meaning of the teachings. Buddha implored his students not
to take his words of advice without deeply questioning them. We need to inquire into
ourselves and question the validity of these teachings. Upon arriving at
some definitive conclusion about what is real and what is not, our faith
will develop and evolve until we completely actualize our Buddha
Buddha's Mission Statement
What is Buddha's
ultimate message? That all
beings have Buddha nature.
If you're completely blind, you can't walk somewhere without
depending on a guide. In
the same way we have to have this faith in the teachings of the Buddha,
that we all have Buddha nature.
Dispelling Delusion's Myth
Since we grew up in a
materialistic culture, we grew up without believing we have Buddha
nature. We have been taught
to look outside our ourselves for satisfaction. In some way, our natural
recognition of who we are has been educated out of us. Because of this,
we have doubt about who we are, doubt about our limitations, and we live
in constant fear of impermanence.
We have identified ourselves with ego, this limited entity, which
is always being culturally reinforced. So we have not been informed or
educated properly, that the way in which we live and the ideas have
about ourselves are incongruous with finding lasting peace and
It requires tremendous
faith, and in some way, a lot of work in approaching the tsawai lama and
in realizing we have Buddha nature. If your parents were like Buddhas
and convinced you that you had Buddha nature, it would be easy. But parents are often ordinary
beings with their own confusions, and under their influence and the
influence of society we believe that we are imperfect.
However, we are already
perfect. This is called Tathagathagarba. Spirituality is not about
perfecting yourself but about purifying your misperception that prevents
you from seeing yourself as you are – perfectly awake. Our misunderstanding of the word
"cultivation" may make us think that we have to change the way we are,
or who we are. We think
that meditation is a way to improve ourselves. But these are
Imagine we have an
amazing mirror. This mirror
is very clear and immaculate. It reflects everything perfectly, without
distortion. But if it has
been covered by dust it cannot reflect flowers or mountains or space.
Our job on the spiritual path is to clear the dust. We don't have to buy a new
In the same way our true
essence is already Vajradhara.
We don't have to change ourselves. We don't have to change who we
are. We simply have to
purify our mental conditions and misperceptions so we can see who we are
There is a beautiful
confession in the Dzogchen teachings: "I confess that I haven't
recognized I am Buddha already, even though I have already been Buddha
through many lifetimes." When you become enlightened you don't gain
anything extra; you see who you are already in the primordial
Tathagathagarbha, means each of us has potential to become Buddha, to
awaken to our true essence in this very lifetime. And this is a very important
conviction to acquire. It
makes a huge difference on our path. When we don't have that conviction
we die and are reborn. We
may be reborn again and again as great meditators without any
change. But if we have
faith in our Buddha nature we can attain enlightenment in this very
The Buddhist notion of
faith is not like the faith of many western religions, like having faith
in a supernatural being. Buddhist faith is developing confidence in our
own Buddha nature. Imagine we have the strength to move a heavy rock in
the road, but without belief in our strength we will never go into
action and move the rock.
We have to meditate on
our Buddha nature everyday.
Dharma practice is not something we do once in a while, some
physical discipline like doing prostrations or reciting mantra. When we wake up in the morning
we can just reflect upon ourselves, that we have Buddha essence. How many times do we remind
ourselves of this during the day?
At night we can ask
ourselves, what was our mind's main activity during the day? Did we worry all day long over
things we couldn't control or were we reminding ourselves of our Buddha
essence? We can practice this contemplation, that we have Buddha
essence, in the traditional way of three sessions - morning, noon, and
evening. This is an
inspiring reflection that enables us to cut through our habitual
tendencies by developing faith in who we are.
Lama Tharchin Rinpoche
has been in the United States for 15 years. I asked him what the essence of
his teaching was and he said, "Reminding everyone of their Buddha
essence, that all of us have the potential or essence of Buddha."
We are both fortunate
because we had parents who taught us that we had Buddha essence. I had
parents and grandparents who taught me this, growing up in Tibet. So now
I can share this with you, that you too have Buddha essence.
If there is no Buddha
essence in each of us then there is no ultimate meaning to cultivating
Dharma practice. The point
of Dharma is not to be healthy or strong, or even happy. The point of
Dharma is to become who we really are. When we say we have Buddha
essence it doesn't mean we are more sublime than who we already
are. We are perfect in this
very moment. We are absolute perfection itself. So this could be our
intention for this retreat, to find out what this means. We are coming here together to
increase and enhance our faith in Buddha nature.
In Tibetan, gelong
takpa is cultivating the
right motivation. We need a
clear understanding for ourselves of why we are doing the retreat. What is the purpose of our being
here? This is called
developing right motivation, or intention. The right motivation for this
retreat is to increase our faith in our own Buddha nature and
actualizing that faith.
Selfish or impure
motivations are great obstacles to witnessing change within
ourselves. From personal
experience, I can say that when I was in the monastery in Tibet, I had many wrong motivations.
Mostly, I wanted to be entertained. At Pema Ösel Ling, I met one
person and asked him why he came to POL every year for retreat and he
said he was looking for a date, that he wanted to date a Buddhist
practitioner. So there can be various legitimate and illegitimate
motivations. All of these
are okay as long as we have the one great right intention, to become
liberated from suffering by recognizing our Buddha nature.
Sometimes we may have
the intention to learn Buddhism. Lama Tharchin Rinpoche used to say that
we don't need the intention to learn Buddhism to become Buddha. Even the
intention to use Vajrayana practice to get enlightened or have ecstatic
experience will continue to lead us astray. The ultimate intention is to
realize who we are, and this begins with cultivating right intention,
which Patrul Rinpoche talks about in the first chapter of The
Words of My Perfect Teacher.
are very fortunate to have a connection to this spiritual lineage, the
Nyingma, or Ancient sect, which emphasizes Vajrayana teachings. Nyingma lineage contains the
complete cycle of teaching to guide beings of all types and mentalities
to enlightenment. We can become very fascinated with developing right
intention and Bodhicitta, but without the support of lineage there is no
way for us to learn how to practically apply the fundamental teachings.
There are stages of the path to help cut through the various layers of
our habitual tendencies, and it our responsibility to integrate these
stages of the path into our everyday life if we are to develop the
sincere motivation to be free of our delusion.
For example, according
to the Vajrayana tradition, you have to practice and complete
ngöndro. If you don't
accumulate the five hundred thousand you cant study Dzogchen. Once you finish ngöndro you have
to study tsa lung (practice of inner heat). But if you jump straight into
higher discipline, you miss things like developing correct motivation,
which will prevent you from realizing your Buddha nature, because you
may be stuck practicing from ego's point-of-view.
Purpose of Dharma Practice
What is the purpose of
Dharma practice? We have
many goals and dreams in our life based on our own ego. But the goal of Dharma practice
is about freeing oneself from one's own ego and attachment. This is called an unworldly path
with an unworldly goal. There is a beautiful prayer from Gampopa,
Milarepa's main disciple, stated in four lines, that captures this
essence of Dharma practice. The first line is:
"May my mind turns
towards the Dharma."
think this is most beautiful prayer, because first your mind must have
faith that the ultimate meaning of life is enlightenment. It is very
possible that our minds are randomly and rapidly turning toward
something else, somewhere else, like marriage or relationship, money,
longevity, health, shopping. These are all egoistic fixations. When our
minds are turned in one direction, like success, we become
successful. When it is
unsettled and goes in all directions we become a bit crazy or
unstable. But we have to
turn our mind in one direction, toward Buddha Dharma. This is our
Atisha said the desire
for enlightenment is all that matters because that absolute desire is
what enlightens us.
Whatever we do becomes Dharma practice if we have the ultimate
desire to attain enlightenment.
If we make Dharma the ultimate priority in our lives than
everything becomes the path to enlightenment.
One of the principles of
the DAP is bridging the gap between Dharma and ordinary life. Dharma is
life, a way of life based on mindfulness and cultivation of wisdom and
love. Once we have that
ultimate desire even our careers becomes enlightenment, because in our
careers we have to go through hope and fear, through doubt and
disillusion. We encounter the whole spectrum of human sufferings. So there is always the perfect
opportunity to cultivate Dharma. It is the same with relationships, because we have to face inner
obscurations and conflict and overcome them in order to be gentle,
loving and kind, to be supportive and understanding. Running away from life is not
the best way to escape from samsara. There is a Sufi story that shows
You Can Run, But You Can't Hide
There was an elder
mystic who lived in a cave.
A young man was disillusioned with society and wanted to seek for
freedom. After days in the
desert he ran into this saint and asked him how he could remain in
society without being annoyed by the corruption. The Elder said, "You
come to the wrong person. I
was weak. I couldn't stand being in society, so I ran away here, but I have
learned nothing. People who live in society with a spiritual perspective
must have great strength and courage. I didn't come here with good
motivation, so my growth has been limited."
When we run away from
life we are running away from habitual tendencies. Life is present, not
past and future. Life is
what we are experiencing now.
Maybe we are in a happy state of mind. This is our life. Maybe we are driving on the
highway, stuck in a traffic jam.
This is also your life. The past is memory. Last year is memory. Childhood is memory. Future is
fantasy. They are fixations
of the ego's imagination and have no substantiality. Life is only
experienced in this moment.
We could be experiencing
favorable or unfavorable conditions. We could be sick, or losing our
property or house or career. That's our life. Dharma practice is to be
with this life and not to run away from any experience. Life is not challenging. The challenge is in me and you,
in our faulty perception.
The challenge arises when we don't understand the nature of
reality. When we have faith
in our Buddha nature, in the way things are, then there is no
Having the experience of
seeing things as they are is what they call in the Dzogchen teaching
Whatever is happening,
you accept as it is without resistance, because resistance is
suffering, isn't it? Buddha's attendant Ananda asked, "Where is the
island where there is no longer birth, death sickness and disease?" That island isn't Hawaii. It is inside of you.
This may sound very
idealistic if we haven't experienced it. It sounds too perfect to be true
if we haven't experienced it.
But this is not fiction.
This is not myth. We
can achieve this unconditioned state if we follow the path with faith in
our Buddha nature.
There are countless
beings who experienced this, like Buddha Shakyamuni, Milarepa, and
Padmasambhava, as well as our own teachers. Buddhahood is not a fiction. It
is achievable, in this very moment.
While I leading a chöd
retreat in New Mexico, I met an Indian medicine woman, who was our
guide. We were a very relaxed group, acting somewhat wildly, telling
dirty jokes. Then one night
this woman said she had led many groups but that they we were the
weirdest she had encountered. I asked her about her spiritual beliefs.
She said that the essence of her religion is walking in beauty. I asked her if she meant like
walking in meadows, chasing after juicy buffalo? She said "No. Walking in beauty
means walking in beautiful perception." The struck me as remarkable.
Walking in beauty is the same as having pure perception. It is the state when we
transcend all our wrong views about who we are and directly experience
So, the first Dharma of
Gampopa is turning the mind toward the Dharma, that we may see things as
they are. This is most important.
As you know, sometimes the mind is like a roulette wheel, always
pointing a different direction.
It's good for us to have a consistent goal.
Lets talk about the
goal. What is the goal or
the meaning of life? Even
though we have wealth and fame, without meaning we feel empty inside,
destitute. The meaning of
life depends on the perspective we have in our everyday life.
Is my meaning of life
different from yours? Yes,
because I want to be an artist, you want to be a musician, she wants to
be a multimillionaire. But
we should share one ultimate goal.
The ultimate goal is realizing the Buddha nature within
As tonight is the first
session, it's very
important to bring the right motivation. Let us become aware of what our
real motivations are for coming here, and simply observe them, without
judgement. This is all that is required. In being aware of our current
state of mind, we can develop the right motivation by recognizing that
ultimate happiness does not come from outside but from awakening to our
Buddha nature, and that recognition requires a path. It requires us to put
wholehearted faith into our path. In this way we will see that every day
is precious, and each moment is the perfect opportunity to awaken.
How many moments have we
wasted in our life by not cultivating the path of Buddha Dharma? We have to feel that we are so
exhausted with samsara, that we are tired of being deluded in order to
overcome our resistance to the beauty and preciousness of this
life. Have the
determination to win your freedom by making a full commitment to put
your heart onto the path. With this kind of devotion, we will overcome
our inner obscurations and transcend all obstacles that prevent us from
realizing who we truly are.
This is a high and precious mission. May our minds turn towards
your blessings that my dharma practice may become the path."
Paper Tigers, Conceptual Dharmas
we talked about what our Dharma practice is. Practice means that we
experience an authentic change in our lives. We don't have to change in
our essence, but we do have to purify our mental conditions that obscure
our ability to see who we are.
Once in a
while, my teachers would ask me out of the blue, "What is Dharma?" They
would strike down any conceptual answer I gave them, especially if I was
being a smart Alec, thinking I knew something. Bodhidharma did the same
thing when he arrived in China.
He asked the students who gathered around him, "What is Buddha
essence?" He always forced them to look directly at their own
Often, we are only familiar with the forms of
dharma, which are like paper tigers -- they look very threatening, but
they don't have the same function as a real tiger. They can't jump and run, and
they definitely can't bite you. It is the same with the forms of dharma
-- they may look impressive, but they don't help us in transforming our
I was giving a Dharma lecture once, and I met a
person who has been practicing Dharma for almost thirty years. He had an interview after the
talk. I asked this person
when he started practicing.
He said, " 1965." I
said, "Then why are you coming to me? You've been practicing dharma
since before I was born. You should be teaching me." He said. "I know, but I still
don't understand Dharma."
It was very humbling for him, and amazing for me to see.
Relative and Absolute
really simple, perhaps too simple for us sometimes. We have a tendency to think that
true spirituality is complicated, but actually its very simple in many
ways. This is the fundamental problem that prevents genuine a
understanding of what dharma is. We use the same conceptual
interpretations that have caused us suffering, and apply them to Dharma,
and this causes confusion on the path.
The Dharma is already in each of us. In
Mahayana Buddhism, there are two kinds of dharma – the actual dharma
that already exists in each of us as the potential for enlightenment,
and the relative dharma, which is the actual method we use for attaining
realization. It's important not to mistake the relative dharma for the
ultimate dharma. Relative dharma is not the real dharma, but it helps us
develop or manifest the dharma of inner realization that is already
perfected in each of us.
So, the relative dharma is like a study aid that we can use to
look towards the definitive meaning of the teachings, that we are
already perfect Buddhas. Relying on this understanding, we can then use the relative
dharma clearly as the path to enlightenment, and not the path to
teachings of the Buddha are demanding because we are always talking
about how important it is to have the right understanding of dharma as
we practice. We have to
remember to lay a strong foundation for our dharma practice. Once we have a strong foundation
and we understand what is dharma, by applying our understanding of the
four noble truths, the eightfold path and the four thoughts, then our
path can become truly effective in transforming our lives.
Meditation is Not Dharma
One of the
ways we mistake true Dharma for its method of actualization is with our
practice of meditation.
With mediation we mistake the form of Dharma for the Dharma itself.
Meditation is not dharma. It is just a tool. True dharma is already in
each of us.
I was in Los Angeles, staying with some
friends, who are Tibetan.
They also invited another Tibetan teacher, a Geshe, who is a
scholar at a big monastery in Southern India. We started arguing about what is
great shunyata, emptiness.
Our pretentious discussion just made the understanding of
emptiness seem more confusing. This simple Tibetan woman said, "Why
don't you stop arguing.
Your noodles are getting cold. As long as you have a good
heart, that is the essence of dharma."
Holiness the Dalai Lama doesn't always speak about profound topics. He
talks about basic human goodness, about love and compassion. Not
Buddhist or Christian or Muslim goodness, but basic human goodness.
claim to be Buddhist or Christian, what are we looking for? We may think we are looking for
God or Buddhahood, but when it comes down to the essence, we are trying
to manifest what we have already.
Christians say "God", the love and compassion in each of us. In Dzogchen, we talk about
Dharmakaya, the love and compassion intrinsic in each of us. So even
though each tradition has different teaching styles, which all sound
very different, they are all talking about the same intrinsic state of
your mind that is love and compassion.
So when we
mistake the spiritual path, or the actual method we use to liberate our
habitual tendencies, for the true dharma, our practice can become very
mechanical. Our minds
become very stiff.
There is a story about Patrul Rinpoche, who
was a rascal saint. The old Patrul Rinpoche was travelling through the
valleys of eastern Tibet. He encountered an old monk practicing
seriously in a cave. He asked the old monk, "What are you practicing
?" The monk said sternly,
"I am practicing patience." "What?" asked Patrul, pretending not to hear
him. "I am practicing patience, I said!" bellowed the old monk. Again, Patrul said "What?"
pretending to be oblivious. The old monk finally screamed, "I am
practicing patience, you idiot!" So you can see we need to investigate
our intention, and we have to be very clear about what actual Dharma is,
in order to practice properly. We must be like Patrul Rinpoche, who was
making sure the old monk in the story wasn't confusing the form of
dharma with true dharma. We must check out ourselves with a very honest
the path the same or analogous to the raft crossing the ocean?
Yes. Samsara, or the
vicious circle of our habitual tendencies, is like a great ocean. And the path is like a great
boat or bridge across. But sometimes we mistake the boat or the bridge
for the other side and we start circling around in the ocean on the
boat. But we want to get
to the other side to the treasure island. Sometimes the boat is very
comfortable and gives us direction and a conceptual meaning of
the tricky part is to determine when one can abandon the raft?
exactly. And the teacher
is very important, because then there is someone always checking out
what you are doing. And
when we have challenging teachers like Patrul Rinpoche making sure
we're not stuck, we can transform our lives very quickly.
sometimes idealize a spiritual teacher as someone who has a beautiful
face. But sometimes a
teacher can be very straightforward and tells you exactly what is
happening. My teacher was
we have to do lots of practice with great discipline, and sometimes you
have to give up practice for a while, for a few days.
its good to do a lot of practice.
In Tibetan tradition we have the three retreat. We have many monks and nuns who
have done 3 year retreat again and again. It's like their lifestyle. But sometimes its important to
give up everything for awhile. For example, in Chöd teachings, or
rushen, you're not supposed to bring prayer beads or have anything to
hang onto, so you can just see where you are, without any external
Style of Practice
more and more that if we are able to get up early, and do prostrations
and prayers first thing in the morning, it will changes our lives
forever. This way of practice is like dropping an anchor into the ocean.
The anchor is our positive intention to transform our lives, and the
ocean is our consciousness.
think, "Why does it take so much time to become enlightened? We have met many great teachers
and received their blessings and so forth. But why are we not
because we have not established our intention, and followed through with
it. We have been lazy and insincere in our efforts.
tell you one thing, you are not going to be enlightened listening to me
because I have a difficult time getting up in the morning!
When I was in the monastery, we had to get up
at five in the morning during summer retreat, but I only went as an
obligation. After one week
I became quite comfortable. But before I started summer retreat, all I
did was worry about going to summer retreat. One time I thought I would
pretend I was sick. Or, I
thought, maybe I could run away. Its a big obligation, starting at 5am
and going really late. I would get up and the monks are blowing the
conch and I hated the sound of the it. But then I got stronger and
started seeing things clearly. I experienced more peace and dignity with
a clear mind. I saw this
more and more. There wasn't any resistance, laziness, procrastination,
and I felt so attuned with the practice. It made me feel good every day.
My meditation was very sharp.
But, when we go back to the monastery or retreat
center or to our hometowns after retreat we forget to get up early, as
we did before. Jigme Lingpa said, "…going from your home to the
monastery is going from small samsara to big samsara." We fall back into
our old patterns. If we read the sutras of the Buddha he said that
people who sleep too much or who eat too much cannot be enlightened.
There is interdependence between the higher teachings and these
practical teachings. It is about consciously changing our habits, and
seeing that we have the power to do this.
There is also a phrase from the Bhagavad Gita
that says people who eat too much or who eat nothing do not have a
chance to realize God.
People who sleep too much or do not sleep at all do not have a
chance to realize God.
I've come to the realization at end of our
first year of dharma practice together that we need a lot of diligence
to break through our conceptual obscurations. We can do this first by
transforming the most mundane circumstances of our lives, our grossest
habits, by applying mindfulness, and persevering through the periods of
I exercise daily I eat less.
But I think that's concentrating on my body.
Physical exercise is an important aspect of this path. In Tibetan Buddhism we
practice prostrations, which are very physical. When practicing
anything with the proper motivation, it becomes a spiritual
my teacher always made was that we should never meditate when we are
sleepy. If we are sleepy,
we should exercise vigorously for a few minutes, or pour a bucket of icy
water on our faces. That would definitely wake us up!
What I am
presenting are the fundamentals, like getting up early in the morning to
practice and exercise.
Without cultivating these basics we won't develop the discipline
to break down our laziness and procrastination. We need to cultivate spiritual
discipline so that is becomes one with our everyday life. So I am going
to talk about cultivating discipline in general, because it is the core
essence of this first year's Dharma Apprenticeship Program.
Once we begin to practice with diligence and
a full commitment it becomes very natural to our lifestyle. We can get up at six every
morning and read the blue book, our little bible of prayers. Its very easy – it's much
smaller than the big bible.
This is small and handy but it has the full teaching of Buddha
Shakyamuni: taking refuge, generating bodhicitta mind and the altruistic
aspiration, establishing motivation through committing to the practice
of virtue, refraining from causing and harm and the taming of one's
mind, as well as the dedication of merit.
is not an esoteric teaching.
It is the base of the path. Having established a foundation,
which is like establishing trust in oneself, in one's Buddha nature, we
advance to teachings that enhance this trust on a deeper level, so that
is becomes complete. Then it is called faith. This is the second year's
teachings, in which we will focus on bodhisattva teachings. Then in the third year we will
practice Dzogchen, where we develop faith to it's complete
reason, we cannot jump into higher teachings without a grounding in
fundamentals, otherwise our trust will not be complete. We will not live
appreciating the fullness and richness of faith in our Buddha essence.
We will always be searching for something more. The practice of the
basic vehicle is cultivating practical disciplines and applying them to
every situation in our lives. In this way, we will learn to be satisfied
with who we are, and everything that we already have.
we will find a sense of naturalness in the practice, and our habitual
tendencies will begin to fade very obviously in a very short time. But we have to cultivate these
disciplines, like mindfulness.
There's no spiritual magic, no miracle cure that we can take to
become enlightened. We must do the work.
I wrote this poem last month. It said:
been suffering for many lifetimes,
even of seeking liberation.
life, I want nothing,
This poem is an expression of frustration on the spiritual
path, of a lack of willingness to challenge habits, which leaves us
desperate for some solution outside of ourselves that we think will fix
us. We are looking for some kind of guarantee, but unfortunately, there
is none. The only guarantee is faith in our Buddha essence. That's all
there is for us. It makes everything quite simple, really.
There is no spiritual
magic. Ultimately, we have the responsibility of awakening to our true
nature. The Buddha said,
"You have to regard me as the physician and the dharma as the medicine
and yourself as a sick person.
Practicing dharma is taking the medicine." So we can see, we have full
responsibility for taking the medicine, for following the path of
responsibility is ours. Not the Sangha's or the teacher's. We have the perfect ability.
However, we don't always recognize this. Its important to have
confidence and faith in our ability to become enlightened. We have to have
is a dharma structure. It has a particular tradition. Some people follow
Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana traditions. We are following a
structure. Although all
traditions are aiming toward enlightenment, like when driving from Santa
Cruz to SF, we can take many different roads, but ultimately we are going to
the same destination.
However, it is more worthwhile to choose one road
and follow that one completely, instead of using many different paths.
If we follow many roads we'll never get to our destination sanely. We
will encounter many obstacles. Perhaps we don't want to pay the tolls
for the road because we think it is a rip-off, so we decide to get off
the road and take shortcuts through the countryside, but we wind up
getting stuck in a ditch. Then we blame the toll booths and the toll
collectors for our problems. So we can see, this is not a wise choice.
It is much easier, and much swifter for us to follow one simple
structure. But Americans have a hard time following structure because we
are rebels. In a political environment that is good, but in a spiritual
environment it is not good.
Tharchin Rinpoche said, "To get somewhere else you can fly on an
airplane. Although you
could build your own airplane there's a good chance you will have a
fatal accident." So it is important to use what has already been tried
and tested and proven as successful, instead of conjuring up our own
Along the way, it is important that we respect the
spirituality of other traditions, whether they are worshipping crystals,
old age, or new age. The
main point is for us to follow through with one structure, one single
discipline. In this way,
there's no doubt that we will experience some kind of
gym exercise. You have to
go to a club, follow some kind of recipe, and do it every day. Our
problem is that we have high expectations. We want huge muscles the next
day. We don't see immediate
results, we decide that want another videotape or book. We want to try another recipe,
one that cooks faster. We think, "…maybe if I do this new one... then
I'll really get want I want." We go through this same habitual process
again and again, without ever experiencing results.
To experience results, our dharma practice should
be supported by patience and diligence. Sometimes we will see the
results right away.
Sometimes we won't.
What is most important is that we follow the structure every day.
This will surely lead us to maturity, inner strength and wisdom.
We are talking about cultivating discipline by
following a spiritual structure which is the path in our every day life.
There are many forms of spiritual discipline in this world. Some are very different from
each other. For example, there is a Zen teacher who said to his students
that the difference between Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism is that in
Zen Buddhism if you have an obsession with food or sweets, you don't eat
food or sweets. But in the Tibetan tradition, one is encouraged to eat
nothing but sweets and rich foods. We are encouraged to dive directly
into our neurosis. One structure is not better than another structure.
They all point to the same goal. It really depends on the practitioner.
Each structure is capable of breaking down the habitual tendencies that
prevent us from seeing who we are.
One key point is that it's important to have a
heartfelt connection with the teacher and the path in order to find some
commitment which will lead us to spiritual achievement. If we are going
from one structure to another, we don't allow ourselves to cultivate any
discipline, and we won't experience any achievement. Its sometimes called spiritual
shopping. We have to have
patience, diligence and devotion. Working with a spiritual teacher over
a long period of time helps because we are continually reminded of our
commitment. It is always there for us, being reflected.
When Dromtompa, one of Atisha's disciples, had
people come to him for essential oral instructions, he always said,
"Yes, but first give me diligence!" He bargained with his students.
The students and teachers should give this to one another. The students should give
diligence and the teacher should give the oral instructions. It is a
cooperative effort. Then, without a doubt, realization will be
Grounding in Patience
about the significance of patience. We have many expectations on the
path, based on our frustrations with our lives. We are all exhausted with
samsara, so we crave some sort of spiritual magic to liberate us, but
there is no God or Buddha outside of ourselves. We crave an instant solution
that will help us overcome all of our fears and insecurities, especially
if we think about all the lifetimes we have been stuck in the vicious
circle of suffering. Naturally, we want to be free right now.
Is there a shortcut to enlightenment? Yes. Those esoteric teachings, such
as Dzogchen and Vajrayana are known for that. Dorje sanglam means the
Varja shortcut to enlightenment. But it requires a foundation first.
Hinayana is the first foundation.
It is not the ultimate foundation, but it provides us with the
discipline we need in order to purify the gross aspects of our habitual
tendencies so that we can receive the higher teachings. Laying the
foundation is like developing this recipients mind. When we have the
foundation we can become proper containers to receive the shortcut
because our motivations are not confused. We then have the proper
intention and understanding of what the Dharma is and what our practice
Usually, the ego gets in the way of the path and
play many tricks on us. Ego is very sneaky. Ego manipulates us to make
us believe that forms of Dharma are actually realization itself. So we
have to be careful. In order to be careful, we have to take a long-term
view, understanding that the journey we are on has no destination. In
some way, this understanding is quite liberating because it can cut
through our grasping for what is arrested and artificial concerning
spirituality. Without a grounding in patience ego will always infect our
understanding and hinder our growth, preventing transformation, which
comes naturally when we are naturally relaxed and not chasing after
something special that we think will save us.
No Sudden Enlightenment
Enlightenment is not a sudden experience. It's a gradual evolution of our
love and compassion. It's
not something we can grasp right now. Dharma is a lifetime journey
without any destination, without any stopping, without any ending.
is Buddhahood if the path
of Dharma is endless journey?
Actually, Buddhahood is not the destination of the path. Enlightenment is the aspect of
ourselves that is not bound to our habitual tendencies. Do we know what
this aspect is? Even when
we become Buddha we still have to do Dharma practice. This journey is
endless, which is a great relief for us. This is really good news.
The difference between sentient beings and Buddhas
is that sentient beings are bound to habitual tendencies and are always
creating further binds for themselves, while Buddhas are always
purifying habitual tendencies.
I want to
go through the recipe of the DAP 's everyday practice for the first
year, since we are talking about following a specific structure. We don't have to have any doubt
about whether this structure will enlighten us or not. This is like an already made
I want to remind you about what this
structure is. As a Sangha
you play the role of practitioner while my role is that of spiritual
guide. We have a common obligation, which is to get up early, around 6am
in the morning, which isn't very good news to me! It would be great if
we had a spiritual trainer for each of us to make sure we get up at 6am
every morning, whom we could ask questions about practice!
There is a
short poem by Rumi that says, "The one who cuts off your head is your
friend. The one who puts it
back is your enemy." This means the one who
really challenges you, who is very truthful to you, about what kind of
spiritual discipline you have to cultivate, that person can truly be
called a friend.
I have confidence in the teaching because my
ability to help you has nothing to do with who I am or what my
realization is. We are
following the path that many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas went through. This is not my invention. Many countless beings have
proved this path works very well. This path has the power to enlighten a
person in one lifetime.
structure for DAP participant is:
sadhana in the blue bible
prostrations 21 times
exercise to loosen up
meditation for 15-30 minutes
carry understanding or mindfulness in every aspect of everyday life
throughout the day. Try to
respond to every situation through love, tolerance, understanding,
generosity and wisdom. Make
dharma a way of life no matter who you are, no matter where you
are, no matter what your
is not a doctrine. In many ways, it is not even a religion. I don't like
the translation "Buddhism".
I prefer Way of the Buddha.
The Way of the Buddha is a virtuous way of life.
principles of Buddhist teachings can be integrated with every aspect of
life. There is no dichotomy
between Buddha Dharma and every aspect of our lives. The teachings are
completely practical and therefore applicable to every experience in
every moment in every situation.
When we read stories of the mahasiddhas they are
all portrayed as having ordinary lifestyles. That means we can integrate
dharma practice with every aspect of our profession. You can be a car washer, a
lawyer, a student, work in an office, a homemaker, husband or wife, or
be an ordained person in a monastery. No matter what the lifestyle,
political beliefs, or belief system. Dharma is not a religion that
excludes anything. It emphasizes training in virtue, refraining from
causing harm and taming our minds. It is very simple approach:
discipline, meditation and wisdom.
If dharma were not so simple, meaning practical,
it would be hard to teach to westerners. It would mean you would be
learning Indian or Tibetan culture otherwise. The reason you can
understand this teaching is that it is not culturally bound. It is the
wisdom of timeless virtue, a virtuous, compassionate, mindful way of
life. As long as we are bringing mindfulness to our way of life we are
following the Way of the Buddha.
The disciplines do not interfere with your
life. Getting up at 6am
doesn't interfere with your work and life. It will even enhance your work,
your relationships, even your hobbies. You begin to experience more
freedom and happiness by living with an open heart, which develops
complete confidence in who you are. This is not modern Buddhism,
integrating with everyday life.
This is what Buddha taught over two thousand years ago.
Making Dharma Practice the Path
We have been talking about how we can make our
dharma practice become the path to enlightenment. The main hindrance of the dharma
becoming the path is when we mistake the practice itself for the real
dharma. If you think the dharma is just sitting meditation and doing
prostrations, then you forget that love and compassion are the ultimate
dharma. We don't want to
become dependent on dharma practice. We want to be tender and sensitive,
not mechanical and robotic in our lives. True dharma helps us live with
fluidity. Conceptual dharma makes us very rigid, like the person who was
challenged by Patrul Rinpoche. He was depending on the structure of
practice, depending on the discipline, and that prevented any real
experience from arising.
I think it is very hard for us to admit to
ourselves our habitual tendencies.
We have to face these unpleasant, uncomfortable aspects of
ourselves. This is true Dharma practice, venturing into the unknown.
Security is not the highest goal.
It is a worldly goal. There is no security here. There are
worldly goals and dharma goals.
When we have mixed motivations, its like tying two horses
together. You have to give
up one horse. Will we give
up the worldly horse or the dharma horse?
Abandoning Samsaric Goals
What are samsaric goals? Longing for security. This is the ultimate samsaric
goal, whether we are western or Tibetan or Chinese. Regardless of whether we want to
become rich, famous, strong in body or mind, or if we want to become
spiritual, the goal behind all of this is wanting security.
Why do we
need security? Because we
are insecure. If we are
secure, we don't need security. If we recognize our own Buddha essence,
that is the ultimate security.
What is preventing us from recognizing our Buddha essence?
Searching for security in places it does not exist. This is wrong view.
This is what we have identified with.
of us, money seems like the ultimate from of security. You can buy popularity,
friendships, material things that provide the senses, the sense of I,
with some temporary happiness, but this is just attachment to temporal
experience of pleasure in disguise. It never lasts. But we resist this
by thinking that if we acquire more, we will be more happy. Ironically, we make ourselves
more unhappy, more insecure, because we are resisting the intuitive knowledge we have
of ourselves, that searching for happiness outside of ourselves only
cause us suffering. We know our attachments are the cause of our own
suffering, but we are too afraid to truly face this fact.
to transform this dynamic, we have to give up security, our constant
search for pleasure, and accept our insecurity, accept being insecure.
In the book Wisdom of Insecurity, by Alan Watts, he says
that the way to become secure is to accept that we are insecure. We have this insecurity - that
we are going to die. We
have to face this. Every moment of our lives we are perishing, changing.
Everything around us is changing, ceaselessly. There in nothing "out
there" to rely on. The only thing we can rely on is within
First, we have to be
aware that we are insecure, that we have certain weaknesses, that we
have hope and fear, that we live bound to the past and project into the
future. It is like taking an inventory, which requires tremendous
honesty. We have to be honest with ourselves in order to befriend
ourselves. Then, we just relax in this awareness, of what we are aware
of, how our fears and insecurities manufacture the patterns of suffering
that create our lives. It is really easy to do, but most of do not want
to give up playing the game of ego.
This game usually
surfaces as some form of judgment or resentment towards ourselves, which is
exactly what we are looking to overcome. The point is to rest in
awareness without fabrication.
The Truth of Suffering
Noble Truth, the truth of suffering, is to become aware of our habitual
tendencies. Dharma practice should not be a way to deny our weakness, or
to experience shame. It is just a way to be aware what is going on
within us, in our lives. We
can see how important it is to become aware of habitual tendencies.
I was talking about mistaking the raft for the
other side, the shore. This is a very important element of the path,
Suffering is the river.
The shore is mahanirvana, the great transcendence. The only way we can get to shore
is by using the raft. It will protect us on our journey. But we should
not mistake the path for the goal. Don't get comfortable in the
samsara, and there's dharma samsara. Dharma samsara is a very
pleasant place to be. There
is still hope and fear, but we live in denial of our habitual tendencies
because we think have arrived, we have found something really good, and
we hang on to it. It is our new toy, and we are fascinated by it. So we
use this prayer: "Grant your blessings that dharma practice becomes
the path." We are
praying to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities to give us the power to
see our motivation.
are faced with hope and fear, if we approach them using dharma, hope and
fear become the path. But
if we use dharma to gain security, its no different than wanting money,
success, etc. Its important for each of us to see that we have this
innate desire for security, and that we project that need for security
onto people, things and circumstances. We always live in fear for our
security, in fear of losing what we see as the source of security We have to see that we very much
want to have security in our life.
That perhaps is the most powerful hindrance on the path.
are practicing dharma, we want to abandon security. There is worldly goal and dharma
goal. The worldly goal is to have more security in our life. The dharma goal is to abandon
Q. Is it
abandoning security or abandoning the desire for security?
thing. We feel miserable when we want to have security. That desire comes out of feeling
insecure. Ask what do you
really want to have in your lifetime? What is the motivation behind your
Q. I have to build financial
security into my business.
Isn't that at odds with our dharma practice?
those things are fine, but ask "Who is Tina the musician? Who wants to build financial
security? Who is anxious and afraid? Perhaps there you will discover
Buddha essence. You can be a musician, but what is the ultimate
goal? Is it to make money
or have a comfortable life?
Or is it to open people's hearts?
Understanding enters our experience when we are
certain of our motivation. Questions about lifestyle are really
irrelevant. Security has nothing to do with what you do outwardly. It is spiritual. We have to have money to rent a
place and buy shampoo to wash our hair. Security comes out of
insecurity. Its alright not
to have security. Permanent
money, relationship, youth, being active and attractive, it's alright
not to have security. That would mean you had only one circumstance
forever. That would be a
talking about intention. I
think its a copout.
A. There's a difference between
insecurity and anxiety.
Insecurity is useful.
Appreciate that anxiety and find a way to love it. Imagine that
we are going to die in the next moment. What matters to us?
W can still make money and raise a family and be
completely fearless. We can overcome hope and fear. In Tibetan its
called jigpopa - no hope, no fear.
It's like being a loser, a cosmic loser, like Drukpa Kunley, the
Divine Madman. He had no fear, no resistance to anything, yet this
person had tremendous love and compassion. To have this freedom we have to
face our karmic habitual tendencies.
Q. This is
the first time that I have heard hope referred to as a negative
thing. Is it
expectation? From a
Christian perspective, we have our lady of hope, our hope for
realization, like Buddhahood.
What is your definition of hope?
A. Hope is
expectation. We want to see
that Buddhahood is already in each of us. It is already in each of
us. Hope is negative
because it doesn't accept what is in this present moment. Hope
and fear are twins. With
one you always have the other.
another translation that says "delusions may be purified on the path."
It is the deluded mind, or deluded perceptions, that we are purifying on
the path. From the
viewpoint of Buddha Dharma, we live in delusion as sentient beings. Sentient beings means beings who
are suffering from their own delusions. Then there are enlightened ones
who awaken from their own delusions. They are called Buddhas.
a vicious circle. Neither
samsara or nirvana exists outside of ourselves. It is all our state of
mind. We don't realize this
though because we have been accumulating habitual tendencies lifetime
While we are on the path we may experience more
delusions, too. We may have to face more internal challenges. The path may seem to create
delusions. Actually, the path shows us how and what we have been blind
to in ourselves. We do not
become more deluded. We become aware of our present state of delusion,
which can be painful for some of us. But we have to face these
in dharma practice doesn't make our lives easy sometimes, but it does
let us see why we are suffering.
And it shows us how we can be free from suffering. Sometimes it seems easier to
sleep than to practice dharma.
Dharma challenges us constantly. It spoils the games ego like to
that most people on the spiritual path are motivated by suffering. I haven't noticed a lot of
people coming to the path with a lot of good news about their
One day I was giving these meditation sessions
with three or four people, and we asked whether we were complicated
people compared to others.
We thought "yes."
In Tibet, people are raised in
Buddhist culture. They may
have faith in the Buddha, may practice some virtue like not stealing,
but they aren't so deeply involved in it. Its a cultural religion for
For us, we
are looking for self-knowledge. This is real sincerity. Dogen Zenji says
to study dharma is to study oneself. Even though we are studying many
different teachings, they all have the same theme, that is to know
ourselves. The reason we are studying Buddhist meditation is that we
want to know what our true nature is. When we know, we will be free from
our mental delusions and afflictions. We will be free in the truest
Guru Rinpoche said suffering is the guru of all
Buddhas, past present and future.
So we have to be more conscious of our suffering. Buddha talks
about suffering very much.
It may sound very pessimistic, but it isn't. Suffering exists, but it can be
resolved. It is
delusion. It is mental
projection. Believing there
is death, suffering, good and bad, samsara and nirvana is all delusion,
and has nothing to do with reality. This fundamental dualism is the
source of conflict in our lives.
Lost and Found
been lost through many lifetimes, not only in this lifetime. We are wandering through endless
samsara looking for ultimate satisfaction, but we have not found
it. We are like a thirsty
man in the desert, chasing after the mirage, looking for water. We are looking for freedom and
happiness but we misperceive false happiness as happiness. We mistake
pleasure for happiness.
says, "Alas, sentient beings are infantile. They desire happiness but are
involved in actions which bring suffering."
look for happiness, we look somewhere other than the spiritual path. We
look outside of ourselves, in the material world, in external
conditions. This is called
wrong view, believing that happiness and suffering are created by outer
circumstances, not knowing that happiness and suffering are created by
our own minds.
news is that we are free already!
We do not have to depend on outer circumstances to be happy. We have this choice, this
ultimate choice. This is
revolutionary thinking. We
have the choice to experience freedom and the choice to experience
suffering too, because both are a projection of our own mind.
Samsara is the place in our mind where we get
lost, not recognizing who we are, not finding true freedom, not finding
happiness. That's called
being lost or being confused. And sometimes we believe that suffering is
outside and we conceptually label certain circumstances that cause
suffering as unfavorable circumstances. Like death, for instance. Most people consider it an
unfavorable circumstance. But is it really? What do we know about death?
It is what we don't know that frightens us.
We have lots of prejudice towards reality. We judge circumstances as good
and bad based on our own perception of reality. This is why we suffer,
because of ignorance, which arises as our sense of I. However, what is a
favorable circumstance to you may not be one to me. What you are trying to
avoid I may be trying to gain.
What we call reality is really a product of our own minds and
mental projections. So Buddhism is based on mind training and purifying
Q. The purification of obscurations
is changing a point of view?
the perspective of non-duality is the ultimate perspective, so solidify
and confirm that perspective.
The source of samsara is called ego, or sense of a
separate "I". And the
source of samsara is called bakchak, or habitual tendency, believing
that there is an "I" and an external world. This misperception becomes a
deeply rooted habit. The
attachment to the delusion is called samsara.
Buddha may experience delusion, but Shakyamuni knows that it is a
delusion and doesn't attach to it.
If we don't attach to delusion, delusion becomes a wisdom
experience. Buddha can have
all kinds of experience but Buddha does not project onto reality.
spiritual practitioners we are not trying to get rid of delusions. There's no way we can get rid of
them completely. We are
trying to recognize them simply as delusions. That's all.
easy not to have delusion because we are being good practitioners. But
the day after tomorrow our mind may stray into the past and become
attached to it. Or mind may
project into the future and get attached to that, which in turn creates
hope and fear, anxiety, and we get lost in that fantasy realm.
start to experience some habitual tendency, we can say, "This is just
delusion." We can just sit with ourselves, in the discomfort and realize
"This is my own delusion." In this way delusion becomes a wisdom
experience because we are not projecting it onto something else. It's
essential nature is revealed. This nature is freedom, recognizing
delusions as delusion. So it is okay that we have delusion. If we did
not have delusion, we could not be Buddha.
Even Patrul Rinoche says, "As many delusions as
there are, if you are able to recognize them as delusions, you will
become a great meditator."
This is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism: the
world of samsara is like a mirage that has no definable characteristics.
It isn't good or bad. There
isn't any view in Buddhism more profound than this.
Giving Up Our
Marpa had a lady come to him and she was crying
because her son just passed away.
Marpa said, "Don't worry. Death is just an illusion." Then a few
years later his oldest son died by falling off a horse. Marpa was crying. The old woman became very
vindictive and said, "If death is just an illusion, why are you
crying? Marpa said, "Yes,
he was an illusion, but he was a very special illusion."
realize we all have this very special illusion. We are attached to our
It's easy to say that everything is illusion. But when it comes to applying it
to our life it is very difficult to apply. The path of dharma is going
to bring up our delusions on the path. So we will always have plenty of
opportunity to practice.
There is a DAP participant from Texas who
considers herself a very happy person. If she is truly happy, then she
has no reason to practice, I thought. But most of us have something to
complain about which is making me very happy because I think dharma is
bringing up our issues. I asked this person, "Why are you practicing
dharma if you are truly happy?"
In a few weeks she moved into a new place and was beginning to
experience anxiety, which is good because it showed her issues being
brought up to the surface.
We have to
have this view: that whatever we experience of hope and fear isn't real.
We like to find superficial comfort in our
spiritual ideas. But that
is like sitting on a nice Persian rug with lots of shit buried
underneath. Now is always the best time to awaken to our habitual
tendencies. Maybe you don't
feel that you can handle them, but now is always a good time to go into
reflection and meditation upon them.
The Ultimate Weapon
Dharma is the ultimate weapon and armor. Without
the teachings, challenging our delusion would be like fighting a tiger
without a weapon or being a warrior in battle without any armor. The teaching tells us that we
have Buddha nature, that this delusion is not real, that it doesn't have
inherent existence. It can be resolved in our own minds by changing
"grant your blessings, that the path may clarify confusion."
Sometimes I think it's very difficult for us
to see that there is meaning and deep significance to practicing dharma
if we are engaged with practicing great comfort in our lives. I used to have a hard time
explaining what I was doing in the monastery to my relatives. They were
successful in business and
didn't understand why I was a monk. They didn't understand what I was
doing in the monastery. They saw me as some kind of loser or a
sick-headed person. They
thought I should be in the world, and building big houses like
We have to bring up all of our delusions. But most
of us don't experience them. The poet Robert Bly says that we have all
these tendencies, and we stuff them in a bag, and then we toss it over
our shoulder and the bag stretches miles behind us. These are the things
in our lives that we don't acknowledge, that we don't want to face. The
only way the path can clarify confusion is if we are aware of our
confusion. Otherwise, this statement has no real significance for
Once we begin to experience delusion and remember
that "This is my own delusion, this has nothing to do with reality," the
delusion goes away, it dissolves. The delusion comes again and you
liberate it again. And it comes again and you liberate it again. This is
all meditation. The art of
meditation is raising delusions and liberating them. It is developing the capacity to
perceive delusion as delusion, which is the function of the nature of
mind, this awareness.
Naropa was asking Tilopa
about the nature of mind. Tilopa said delusion doesn't bind you. Its the
attachment to delusion that binds you.
practice breathing exercises or use the syllable "Phat!", imagining that
you are cutting through delusion.
does phat mean?
A. It has
many meanings. It is the
sound of cutting through of ultimate reality. It is the sound of
What we are trying to cut through is the
attachment to the delusion. When we begin to see that worldly concerns,
like wealth and possessions and favorable circumstances cannot make us
happy, we lose our attraction to worldly phenomena. We begin to see that
none of these phenomenon can give us ultimate satisfaction.
when delusion arises, we ask: "Where is the source of freedom and
enlightenment?" It's in us, but we have to encounter it again and
As dharma practitioners, if we are processing our
emotions, if the practice is bringing up emotional crisis, that's
we have to have very strong mind and feel very good about ourselves,
then suddenly we experience delusion and we wonder what happened. When
we experience delusions or upheaval on the meditation path, we should
look at it as a sign that we are practicing on the meditation path. One sign of the meditation
practice is that we experience a lot of inner challenges. No matter what we face, it's
just our own inner projection.
We shouldn't give in to those projections. Eventually we are welcomed to
the realization of our true nature, which is non-duality, we do not
engage with our habitual tendencies.
So this is
a very good sign that we experience challenges internally. It is also good because we have
real question for the teacher about the path, instead of just
theoretical questions. If
you just ask what is Dharmakaya, what is Sambhogakaya, it puts me to
sleep. But if you call up and say, "I cant sleep. I'm having all this
anxiety," it entertains me. Then I feel like I am being useful.
An Intimate Encounter With Ourselves
Sometimes I wonder if there is a cultural thing
with Buddhism, which becomes a barrier or an obstacle to
liberation. We don't have
to learn a theory, like in a philosophy class. We are doing dharma practice,
which is going to change our lives if we practice with genuine
understanding, which only comes from experience, applying the teachings
directly to our lives. Sometimes we can become overly intellectual, if
we become fascinated with the knowledge of dharma. Then Dharma become useless. It
is not going to have an impact on us. Dharma is not like a computer,
where you learn a method objectively. You can learn the keyboard and
apply all the guidelines and it works very well. With dharma its very
subjective experience. We have to connect with our feelings, our
emotions, our habitual tendencies. We should have practical experience,
not just esoteric technology, not just pushing buttons. It's not like that. It's an intimate encounter with
Arising As Wisdom
I once met a mendicant yogi named Chatral-pa. He
traveled from one place to another, camping and doing practice. He lived
very simply. Once, he came to my monastery and looked at my room and
thought it looked very fancy, filled with statues and texts. I asked him
what his practice was and he said, "I have only two things in my life --
this small tent and the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. I don't need all those volumes
of scriptures and sadhanas."
When I compared my realization with his, he was clearly able to
demonstrate fearlessness and compassion.
We are so fortunate to have the lineage of this
teaching, the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. I've received it from many
teachers. This teaching is
amazing because its something we can practice in everyday life. From my
own understanding, the wonderful part of this teaching that we are
directed to confront and acknowledge our kleshas, and recognize that the
path of meditation and reflection is the only way can get past our
habitual tendencies through recognizing them as delusion.
As we are human,
the main source of our suffering is that we project onto what we
perceive as being outside of ourselves.
In terms of practicing love and compassion, I
think we have to free ourselves from our own habitual tendencies of hope
and fear. Then we will be able to manifest our intrinsic enlightened
qualities more and more.
are trying to practice generating Bodhicitta mind or resting in the view
of Dzogchen. But unless we
can overcome our tendencies we cannot have direct, empirical experience
of Buddha mind. That's what
we are trying to do. We
have to essentialize these teachings for ourselves to we can expereince
success in examining and realizing the nature of our immediate
All beings have Buddha nature, including myself,
and all sentient beings have potential to overcome their habitual
tendencies. Simply, to be free from samsara we have to overcome our
delusions. When we are experiencing comfort and permanence, often we are
in the deluded state. When we experience hope and fear, we will
In some way, we lose hold of everything when we
are on the spiritual path - not physically but mentally, because we have
to overcome our ego and our belief system of who we think we are and
what we think is reality.
Perhaps this is what Christians call the dark night of the soul,
or when Zen practitioners say: "You have to die on the cushion. " In
some way we have to lose everything, give up security, abandoning
notions of permanence.
There is a poem I wrote that says,
ago I was truly disillusioned with this world,
true happiness I haven't found.
deluded, not undeluded,
in the middle of the spiritual path,
Sometimes the spiritual path is like
purgatory. Nothing from
outside can give us satisfaction, not our careers or our
relationships. When we
experience hope fear and self doubt we experience this more than ever.
We have to remember this is a sign of our practice progressing along the
path, so we have to be happy. We can rejoice and pray to the Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas and deities for power to see delusion as delusion and not
be trapped by delusions.
meditate always remember, "This is my own delusion. It has nothing to do with my own
reality. It was not created
by society. It was not
created by sickness. It was
created by my own mind. I
am going to see the nature of my own mind." If you experience hope, see that
as your own. If you
experience fear, or guilt, or crisis, see that as manifestation of your
own mind. See all
phenomenon you experience
as your own mind, instead of believing in your
There is a beautiful Buddhist story that
illustrates that everything is mental projection. A wife died before the
husband. The husband
started dating another woman.
Suddenly, his wife would pop up and say, "You're not going to
date this woman or I'm going to kill you." The man was afraid, so he didn't
date. And again it
happened. Defeated, he went to see his master, and his master said, "It
is just your own projection.
Grab a handful of rice and ask her how many grains of rice are in
your hand." He saw his wife once more, and he said, "You know everything
about me. But you are only a projection of my own mind. I have nothing
to be afraid of anymore."
Then he grabbed the rice and tossed it high up into the air,
making offerings to all the Buddhas for helping him to realize the
nature of his own mind.
Recognizing Phenomenon As Mental Projection
Recognize everything as your own mental
projection. No matter how
challenging things are, recognize it as your mental projection. Don't label it as negative or
positive, just see it as mental projection.
First, we have to have
the view that everything is mental projection. Second, we have to have the
intention to do it, to improve the realization through action. Its not just recognizing this,
it is engaging with difficult situations, like being with difficult
people, like homeless people, or giving something you don't want to
give., or wrestling with our own habitual tendencies. If we go through
this process once, then we are always going to be victorious. The question is, have any of us
overcome any challenge in our life. Have I ever overcome delusions
in a true way? Have we been able to give up
our attachment to faulty self image, to give something to someone with
perfect generosity without any expectation? Meditate on that for
a few seconds.
that somehow as a Tibetan person we have the greatest chance to overcome
our own fear and hope, our own karmic issues with our current
history. The only way we
can overcome our pain and wounds is through kindness to Chinese people,
and I think the Dalai Lama sets a wonderful example in a very real way. You could be very pretentious
when you do that, but he is very sincere. There is always ego that can
make our spiritual practice insincere. In dharma practice we have to be
spiritual warriors facing all the challenges in our life, not just the
easy ones, but all of them. We always think that challenges mean
difficult person or difficult situation, but the really difficult
situation is to confront an uncomfortable situation, which occurs only
in our minds. Regardless of whether we are having hardships or we are
having success, it is important to remember who we are, as Buddha, and
to discover our bakchak, our habitual tendencies.
Its also beneficial to try something in real
life we have been resistant to.
Like giving away something.
or giving up our self image, or engaging with certain people or
certain circumstances that have proven difficult for us in the
past. Sometimes its good to
encounter and face circumstances we have been avoiding to in order to
bring up latent hopes, fears and paranoia, so we can recognize those
perceptions as our own projections and recognize that they are not
outside of us.
The Sacredness Of The
path we may fail to recognize projection as projection, but we can try
again not to fail. But if
we are not on the path, we will never notice that our world is an
illusion fabricated by the projections of our minds. We will not notice what is
underneath the reality of life. So we have great fortune to be
discovering ourselves in this way, even if it is unpleasant.
You may come to retreats or go to teachings, and
you may fail many times, not recognizing your mental delusions as
illusory. But you will come
again and again and eventually overcome them. If you are not on the path
then you will not even have a chance to engage in dharma practice.
first begin dharma practice, we may cut through concepts and
projections, and become enlightened right away. It's possible. But most of us will fail and
have to try again, and fail and try again. We will have glimpses, and we
will learn to extend those glimpses. This is the value of being on the
spiritual faith: we are constantly being reminded of who we are.
Awareness is unmistakable in this way.
So we have
to engage in situations that bring up hope, fear and doubt, and try to
apply the teachings and recognize our various states of mind as
delusion. Buddha failed many times. He went through many stages of
his dharma practice. He
failed with his challenges.
He went through many reality checks. We may have to do that too.
Eventually our minds will be completely pure, and we will manifest our
primordially enlightened nature, the same as Buddha did.
Liberation Is The Goal
are seeking for as a goal in meditation is liberation, whether we are
practicing insight meditation or mahamudra, the great seal, our goal
is drolwa, or liberation.
This has nothing to do with external liberation but internal liberation
-- liberating oneself from ones own habitual tendencies.
point of view of Dzogchen, liberation doesn't come from rejecting our
emotions, but from seeing
them as simply emotions, and not projecting them onto outer
circumstances. If we
project these emotions, we think that life is miserable and conflicted,
full of highs and lows, beauty and ugliness.
Yesterday , we discussed this particular subject
over and over, but this is the core essence of Buddhism, whether we are
practicing Hinayana or Mahayana disciplines, or whatever. There isn't
any duality of samsara and nirvana in the higher teachings, because both
are the projection of our emotions. So from the perspective of
Dzogchen, both of these flavors exist only as our projections. This
realization is mahanirvana, the great nirvana, beyond both samsara and
nirvana, beyond all conceptual fabrications, beyond all duality.
We Are What We Are Searching For
As meditators, we aren't looking for meditation
experiences. Nirvana is
just temporary. Most
people are looking for small nirvana - peace. We can accomplish that by going
into a cave and giving up contact with people. In small nirvana, our
habitual emotions have been suppressed and denied, giving the temporary
experience of liberation.
This experience is blissful, quiet, peaceful, resounds with a
sense of well being. It is cozy, so most meditators stop there. But do
we really want that small nirvana? Are we merely interested in our own
comfortable little niche? In some ways small nirvana and great samsara
are really the same. They are both concerned with personal comfort and
My teacher used to tell us that after we graduate
from the whole process of training and study in the monastery, we should
go into the real world and listen to real people and hear about their
conflicts and sorrows. But
its very possible that we mistake temporary liberation as the absolute
liberation, and therefore do not have to be in the world. This state is so deceptive, that
we can be in temporary liberation without knowing we're in it.
People with small nirvana die, then they're reborn
again. There's a teaching in the sutras that characterizes this. There
were a few monks who experienced great bliss practicing the Hinayana
teachings. They went into a
cave and didn't come to hear the Mahayana or Vajrayana teachings (the Vajrayana teachings present
the final path of practice required to become fully enlightened). These monks stayed in the cave
without dying through the power of their samadhi bliss. A Buddha came and went, and then
another. Meanwhile many
monks and nuns became completely enlightened, but this group of monks
remained in the state of their individual liberation. Finally, the last
Buddha came and snapped in their ear to wake them up. Then they
practiced Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings and became arhats.
This comfortable state of samadhi is very
appealing because everything is perfect and peaceful and fine. It appears to you that you're
wise and mature, and are able to see the confusions of other people, but
you can't see your own. Actually, it's good to have this wonderful
experience at the beginning of the path or else we would run away from
Sometimes our mind is like an old grave with stuff
that has been buried for hundreds of years. Our habitual tendencies are
affecting our life right now. So we have to confront everything in our
life in order to be free from it. Liberation isn't a peaceful state of
mind where one no longer experiences confusion. That kind of peacefulness is
called small nirvana.
Liberation is the aspect that we are liberating ourselves out of
the confusion of our habitual tendencies.
How are we going to liberate ourselves out of
habitual tendencies? Just
see them as a manifestation of our own Buddha mind, our pure
consciousness, without judging them or being attached to them. Just see
these confusions as manifestations of our minds. Whether we are experiencing
confusion or peacefulness or hope or fear, see everything as
manifestation of Buddha mind.
In Dzogchen its called manifestation of Buddha
mind, in Mahayana it's called shunyata, great emptiness, in Hinayana,
it's called egolessness, or selflessness. They are all the natural state
of your mind. Can you find this mind?
Our Mind Is Like The Sun
is like the sun, and the arising thoughts are like the rays of the sun,
which aren't separate from the sun. Whatever we are experiencing,
whether it is a wonderful experience, like love or compassion, or awful
experience like anger or jealousy, see all of them as a manifestation of
our consciousness. Our
consciousness is an entire world, like space. It is the enlightened
mandala of love and compassion.
vice, the six realms, samsara, nirvana – all are in our minds. In Dudjom
Lingpa's Troma sadhana, he says "Sentient beings are me. Buddhas are me!" This is a
revolutionary teaching, and
many scholars of his time wrote refutations against it. Sentient beings and Buddhas do
not exist outside ourselves. Enemies and friends, virtue and vice are
all within our own mind. See that it is so.
non virtuous thoughts are manifestation of Buddha mind?
A. Yes. I
can explain. What is
good? What is bad? What is beautiful and ugly? What is samsara and
nirvana? We cannot find
them outside ourselves.
When we read the four immeasurables, the last one
is great equanimity. This
is called the highest realization we can have on the path. Great equanimity means there is
no longer perception of samsara or nirvana, friend or enemy, good or
bad. All things are seen in their true state of emptiness.
I was with another monk from Golok, who had a kind
of wrathful personality. We were going to meet a Theravadan monk in LA.
We all got together at the dinner table. And the lama wanted to debate
with this Hinayana monk.
"I'm going to debate with him from Dzogchen perspective," this
monk boasted. He said, "I'm going to ask what is the essence of their
path." Maybe its vipassana
meditation or pranayama [breathing] exercises. And he asked the monk
what he practiced? The
Theravadan monk said, "Great equanimity!" And that answer shut my Golok
friend up. Since that his idea of Hinayana has changed.
Whether we are practicing Vajrayana or Hinayana or
Sufism or Christianity, once we see the depth of all the traditions, we
realize they are talking about the same thing. recognizing great equanimity,
called nyampa nyi chenpo in Tibetan. Great equanimity is to see that
everything is a projection of our own minds. If we see good, we have to
realize that is a manifestation of our own mind. If we see bad, it is the
same. With this awareness,
we can practice not projecting any of them onto outer circumstances.
habitual tendencies would be manifestation of Buddha Mind?
Manifestation of them is Buddha mind. The attachment to them is
Q. So cutting the root is?
A. It is
cutting attachment. Imagine
a poison tree next to your door.
If you just cut the branches, it will never go away. If you try to get rid of your
emotional thought, its like cutting the branches. The root of the tree
is attachment, becoming attached to dualism, our emotions of hope and
fear. We are attached to
the emotions because we haven't realized that they are a manifestation
of our Buddha mind.
realizes hope is a manifestation of Buddha mind, one is liberated right
there. But we begin to
think that hope or fear is caused by outer circumstances, and we become
attached and cling to the emotion.
That becomes habit.
Q. We were
talking about the tree and the root, but if we search for them do they
Q. If we look for the "I" we can't
but hope and fear exist as mental projections.
Q. When you take a bodhisattva vow
you have hope that people are going to liberate? Is a bodhisattva also fearful
that people aren't going to liberate?
is a quote from the Buddha that says, "I have come to the illusory world
to give illusory teachings to illusory sentient beings."
Q. So is it the idea that as we
engage in spiritual practice, confusions arise. I had all these strange feelings
and thoughts when I woke up this morning and wasn't sure that to do with
them. So confusion is a
Yes. Don't seek for the
source of that in outer circumstances. What did you do when you
experienced it? Did your
mind go into past and future and try to find source outside of
A. Sometimes. Like I woke up after dreaming of
designing a blender that wouldn't make so much noise.
Most of the time, when we experience hope, fear
and confusion we project it onto outer circumstances. We think there is
something wrong with our life, or we think there is something wrong with
money, or lifestyle or health, and we try to find the source of the
emotions in circumstances.
Then we regard those circumstances as negative and try to change
them. This is how we always
fight with reality. If
we're sick or dying or getting old, we are always struggling with
it. We believe that
our inner suffering is caused by outer circumstances, so we label
situations as positive or negative, depending whether the situation
appeals to our sense of "I."
how much fear and crisis we are experiencing, we must remember that the
cause of these emotions does not exist outside ourselves. We must see
them as manifestation of our Buddha mind. Its like learning to shoot an
arrow. At first you miss
the target. Then you get closer with practice.
Recognizing Buddha Mind
meditation you don't find the experience of liberation at first. But we must try to meditate and
see everything as manifestation of Buddha mind.
Dzogchen teachings say that there are three ways of liberating oneself
from one's mind. One of the three ways is that the meditative mind
becomes like a snake that ties himself in a knot. He ties himself into a knot, and
he can untie himself again.
experience confusion and hope when we meditate, but somehow our minds
will be liberated from confusion immediately. We may experience confusion just
as before, but we don't have to be attached to our emotions as being
real if we recognize the confusion as our own Buddha mind.
It's important to distinguish between suffering
and emotion. Suffering is
attachment. Pain is pure
emotion. Pain is pure, it
is instinctive and can be experienced purely as jealousy, love,
devotion, joy. Buddhas have
same emotions as we do. But
Buddhas are free from suffering because they are not attached to their
emotions. Suffering comes
when we attach to emotions, thinking they are real. This is why we don't
recognize that emotions are just manifestations of Buddha mind.
Lets meditate and see if we can see any
confusion. I hope we have
some packages of confusion today.
Try to experience confusion or fear. This is a good time and safe
place to experience them.
Our general tendency is to project them onto outer
circumstances. Now we know
, at least intellectually, that we are projecting them. And we project onto people, onto
our identity, onto possessions, and this habit or projection is the very
element which causes suffering and conflict. Emotions are not source of
suffering, but when we project them, they become suffering.
Emotion Itself Is Not Suffering
every spiritual teacher has a different way of defining suffering. Maybe
one way is to define it as conflict with reality. To be Buddha if it
means having no emotions is to be a happy vegetable. I'd rather be myself than be
that kind of Buddha.
are manifestations of Buddha consciousness. All of them, pain and joy, are
all very beautiful. If we
open our mind to them we become more like Buddha. But if we attach to them, we
suffer. We are trying to
fix reality and push away what is unpleasant and crave what is pleasant
in every circumstance when we play the game of attaching to the seeming
reality of our emotions. This is our way of trying to control reality.
But we are never able to control reality. There is only impermanence and
death. There is no control.
And conflict with that is suffering. Emotion itself is not
is not denial. It is not a
transcendent state. That comes out of the idea that emotions are dirty
and samsaric. When you say transcendental you may understand that it
transcends all emotion, but genuine meditation is the perfect state of
your mind where everything is holy, religious, spiritual.
True meditation is opening your mind to everything
- pain, sorrow, devotion, love, without any resistance. Resistance is a
preconception that something is good or bad. Let's just try to open our heart
to everything. We can
experience absolute love and devotion. However, we may think we are
going to experience more confusion if we reveal ourselves so nakedly, if
we make ourselves so vulnerable. But this is the only way we can
experience genuine liberation. We have to take some risk in order to
gain some achievement. Some
styles of teaching encourage love and devotion. Mine encourages you to feel
confusion and delusion.
like Thich Nhat Hanh says about treating emotions like treating a child
in your arms.
That's beautiful! More than
a mother loving her child, see them as manifestation of Buddha
mind. Also, see negative
emotions as manifestation of Buddha mind. We always find ways to project
hope and fear. Be with that
feeling or perception without any fear or attachment. Do not hesitate to
embrace yourself completely.
experience that last dharma, may confusion dawn as wisdom,
everything is wisdom, absolutely divine. Everything becomes a sacred
manifestation of Buddha mind.
Pain is as divine as bliss.
Confusion is as divine as wisdom. You begin to see everything as
yeshe, primordial wisdom.
everyone understand? No one
is going to leave without understanding this teaching. Tseringma would you lock the
door please (laughter)?
Q. Watch your emotions watch you
feelings and thoughts and experience them all as Buddha
you can go outside now (laughs)!
emotions arise, it could be very overwhelming or depressing, unless we
see the divinity of them.
Then pain becomes equal to love and anger becomes equal to
compassion. So the whole
point is to see the divinity in all emotions because they are all
manifestations of Dharmakaya mind.
All thoughts and emotions are manifestations of Dharmakaya, like
rays are manifestation of the sun.
When you see the divinity in each emotion, thought, and
perception, then you are Buddha.
bakchak [habitual tendencies]?
It is not mind or consciousness. It is attachment to emotions as
being real and solid. We
are trying to cut through our bakchaks during this process of
meditation. We are cutting
through these emotions, recognizing them as manifestations of our Buddha
mind. In this way, though we may not always see it, emotions and
thoughts are already liberated. So we are using liberation as the
experience confusion are we able to experience liberation of it? When we experience hope and
fear, there is also an amazing experience of gratitude that arises
from of absolute
peace. That is liberation.
In meditation, we are trying to continuously experience that liberation
by recognizing that every mental activity is manifestation of Dharmakaya
mind. Let yourself perceive everything as manifestation of Buddha
Q. Seems like this requires
courage, to bare one's heart and bare one's chest, to pick up the
screaming child of one's emotions and just be with it.
Yes. It takes a while to
see these delusions in each of us.
It requires some kind of process to see it.
two stages of meditation. Analytical - a self-investigation, and this is
taught by all Buddhist teachers.
It is introspection, how to see where the sources of suffering in
our lives lie, and what is the potential for their liberation.
Eventually we realize we do have Buddha nature but that we project the
source of conflict onto the outside world. But in reality, there is no
The second type of mediation is equipoise. This is
a little more fun, according to my small opinion. Just relaxing into the natural
state of mind, we see everything as the manifestation of mind. It's a nice ride. From this natural state we are
liberating spontaneously in every moment. But without emotions, there
isn't anything to liberate.
So when they arise we liberate them immediately.
Q. So afflicted emotions, are they afflictive because we
are attached to them?
A. Yes. In
this teaching, even devotion and compassion are afflicted because you're
attached to them.
There are a lot of techniques presented for
liberating emotions in Vajrayana Buddhism. We aren't talking about them
because we have been practicing Hinayana path this year, so we have been
practicing mostly doing breathing exercises, our mindfulness
One method we could use is to exclaim the "PHAT!"
mantra to dispel any confusion or to prevent us from becoming attached
to our meditation. It is a way of dissolving mediations. It is a very
powerful method for witnessing the nature of mind.
Or you could do deity
yoga, visualizing a peaceful or wrathful deity like Chenrezi or
Vajrakilaya, which is a very powerful way for realizing everything as a
manifestation of our Buddha mind. HHDL said
that if you are experiencing more negative state of mind, visualize
yourself as a wrathful deity like Vajrakilaya or Troma. If you are experiencing more
peaceful then visualize Chenrezi or Green Tara.
Milarepa told Gampopa, "Do not practice mantra or
prostrations. They will
cause you to fall into samsara."
This is radical, because Milarepa told him to just be there. But we have to understand the
pure connotation of that.
If you are able to liberate your emotions directly, then maybe
it's good not to do anything.
Then we wouldn't have to recite mantra or do anything.
many great Dzogchen yogis seem very ordinary, like jigpopa, or great
loser, dharma bum. They
don't do any practice. They're not diligent. But they have the ability to
liberate their emotions instantly because they recognize that everything
is manifestation of Buddha mind.
But if we cant do that we have to use
techniques. And there are
many, like trekchod [cutting through], togal [passing through,
recognizing spontaneous presence], tsa lung [advanced yogic practices,
including inner heat]. We
can use some of those techniques too. But sometimes it's easier to use
techniques than being in the view.
For example if you are experiencing self-hatred,
it sounds like maybe you are stuck in your mind with thoughts. So you could use the exclamation
of PHAT! or mudras or prostrations, or simply pray to Buddha with
mantras, or practice visualizing Avalokiteshvara. There is endless
practice for endless confusions. We simply have to find what is right
for ourselves. If we have faith in the spiritual master, or Buddha or
Christ, we can visualize him or her in front of us. That is why there is guru
yoga. We can pray to them
to give us the power to liberate ourselves from unhealthy attachment to
Q. So the prayer is not to make the
emotion go away
No. To liberate it. To see the emotion as your
Q. Or just sitting in the fire of
Yes. Like Gampopa told
Milarepa about just being there with whatever arises.
afternoon I'm going to talk about how we can take our dharma teachings
into everyday life. It's very important for us to get together four
times a year and to have Sangha near where you live, because they
inspire us in our practice. We are not ordinary people in some way. I'm not trying to convince you
to have spiritual pride,
but we are not just thinking about basic need but also highest
need. Spirituality is a
career our true vocation.
When we think about careers, we have to think
about two kinds of careers.
One kind is worldly career, which is good because it helps pay
the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge, buys food and medicine. Buddhism
does not discourage people from their worldly careers. I don't
discourage people from following worldly career, making money or
whatever. I don't think
there is any contradiction between Buddhism and every day life.
But Paramahansa Yogananda said, "Do not neglect
work for God, and do not neglect God for work." Sometimes spiritual
people run away from life because they are afraid of taking
responsibility for themselves. And then there are ordinary people who do
not use or take advantage of having Buddha essence.
who have no interest in the spiritual path and those who do both have
equal Buddha essence. Both have equal potential to be enlightened. Just like two people may have
great musical talent – one works hard to develop it while the other
takes it for granted, squandering their gift. One becomes a great artist
and the other doesn't.
In the same way all of us has the same potential
to be awakened. We all have
the ability to overcome our mental and emotional obscurations. Today I listened to all of you
with full attention and I heard some of your conflicts. Some have doubt or
self-hatred. All beings
have some kind of conflict, which is habitual tendency. So there is a habit or conflict
in each of us that we have not overcome in our lifetime, like
self-doubt, or self-hatred, or guilt. We can't find anyone in this
world who doesn't have any conflict or issues.
live stuck with these habits, its hard to believe or have faith in our
potential to overcome these habitual tendencies. When you overcome them, with a
whole heart filled with pure devotion, then there is the truth of
transformation in each of us.
you are stuck with self doubt or fear or guilt. And you follow the path and one
day you realize that you have been suffering for nothing. You being to laugh because you
have been torturing yourself and not recognizing your true potential.
Everyone has this potential in themselves, even has the potential to be
enlightened in this very moment.
There's no particular time to become enlightened. You don't have to consult a
Tibetan astrologer to find the best time. Ask yourself: "If I do have
Buddha essence, why don't I recognize it,"
If we are
not enlightened it is because we don't use our potential. We may say its because we
haven't met the right teacher. But if we are using our days to practice
and develop our awareness, then regardless of the teacher or any
obstacles we may encounter, we are going to actualize our true nature,
our Buddha essence.
Simplicity and Diligence
be simple. In a Tibetan
story, a woman became enlightened by worshipping a dog's tooth. Or the three hermits in
Tolstoy's story who asked Rome to send a priest to teach them
rituals. He came and taught
them all summer, then left, fed up with their seeming crudeness and
ignorance. As he was rowing
back across the lake, the priest heard them calling after him, "Hey! We
forgot the last prayer!" They were barefoot walking across the lake
towards his boat.
Rinpoche said people are not lacking in knowledge of spirituality, but
they are only lacking in diligence. Everyone in Tibet knows "OM MANI
PADME HUNG" and that itself is a complete path, but very few are
diligent in following it.
It is important to be diligent. Today I may remember to
practice, but tomorrow I forget.
Then the next day I forget.
Then the next day I forget again. Its very easy to forget daily
practice unless we are careful.
retreat is wonderful because the environment encourages us to
practice. The teacher is
there and everyone is practicing. It's impossible not to practice. It's like a spiritual
My own practice in big retreats was...I'll tell
you about my own experience.
I had great nyams [mystical experiences]. I was doing this Chenrezig
practice for a few days and
I began to experience amazing things - beautiful visions and feelings,
cosmic love, like the way you love trees and rocks and even skunks. But when I came out of retreat
and talked to someone on the phone, I lost it all and went back to
So how do
we integrate our worldly practice with driving car and working and being
a citizen. I don't have any
issues concerning the faith of dharma practitioners. They all seem to have faith and
devotion in their Buddha nature, and they are extremely intelligent and
understand the teaching right away. The problem is that we have a
little weakness in how we can bring the dharma practice to everyday
of program is wonderful because we don't have time to go into three year
retreat. But this program
gives us structure. We have
early morning practice and evening Sojong [daily confession]. We
maintain our practice of practice mindfulness all day by seeing
everything with the open heart of love and compassion. how can we keep those practices
want to be an excellent pianist you will have to practice two hours a
day. Fifteen minutes a day
doesn't do it. If you can
spend more time to do sitting meditation and prayers and reading the
books on the book list, then you will reap greater rewards. I think
there's a time in the future, or perhaps now for some of you, that you
don't need formal practice, but for most of us, we do need.
Sherab, who was Lama Tharchin Rinpoche's uncle, practiced every
day. His teacher Dudjom
Rinpoche told him not to practice anymore, but he practiced anyway. And Dudjom Rinpoche told
someone, "… its funny that people who don't need to practice dharma keep
practicing and those who do need to practice don't."
reach the highest level of realization, we need to do daily
practice. As human beings
we are like patients who need to take medicine. Like Patrul Rinpoche said,
"First the meditator chases the meditation, then the meditation
chases after the meditator."
we have to spend at least half an hour, even at Christmas time when we
are busy, we have to practice dharma. Dharma is as essential and
important as eating food, or working at our career. It is our spiritual career.
You can meditate on the Four Dharmas of Gampopa or
practice breathing exercises.
It's not so important to do a variety of practices. It's essential to follow the
structure of one path at one time.
So if we are practicing vipassana meditation, we should follow
that path for some months or years until we gain some direct experience
of our Buddha nature.
not a physical activity.
Like holding mala and reciting mantra is dharma, but it depends
on our motivation. Maybe
I'm a cook and I have to wake up at 6am and work in my restaurant. But then I can do my practice
right there in a public place.
I can practice mindfulness and compassion right there. I can liberate my emotions and
be in the present.
eat just eat. There was a
Korean Zen master who was teaching about this, then one day he was in
the coffee shop with his students reading his paper and eating his
food. His student said,
"Isn't it contradictory to read while you eat?" The master said, "There is no
contradiction. When you
read and eat and sit, just read and eat and sit."
The Power of A Spiritual Presence in The
more power being in the outside world and not being afraid of connecting
with people. You really see the suffering other beings, you see it's
nature, and you see the sacredness of other beings as well. Dharma comes out when you open
your heart in a real way.
exist by yourself in this universe. Buddha taught
interdependence. I am
connected to each of you and you are connected to everyone else. We have
to embrace everyone who comes into our life and appreciate their
suffering, their beauty, their sacredness.
When we live with an open heart, all those doubts
and issues and emotions come up. Then we can apply these teachings, and realize great emptiness,
knowing that suffering and happiness do not exist outside ourselves.
Rather, they are a projection of our own consciousness.
extraordinary beings because we found this path. We found there is Buddha
potential in each of us.
The beings who haven't found the path to love and wisdom are
spiritually blind. And
those who have found it have wisdom eyes. The beings who haven't found the
path are wandering through samsara and we have to have compassion for
them. But those who have found the path but don't take advantage of it,
that would be a great loss and we must also have compassion for them as
we worry too much abut our worldly life: our education, self image, loss
of youth. We spend a lot of
time worrying about things that are illusory and have nothing to do with
finding happiness in our lives.
One of the reasons why we worry about our life,
death, old age and self image is that we forget how precious it is to
find holy dharma. How
precious that it is to find this path! How precious it is to find our
we have Buddha nature!
One day I went to visit Khenpo Chodzod, who is a
very good teacher and is my contemporary, which means we're the same
age. I was with him on Losar [Tibetan New Year}. We were with lamas from Western
Tibet who were celebrating Losar in a different way. He and I were celebrating Losar
in the Golok way, by going out and throwing rocks at a target and
hanging around. He was
sitting on my couch with his feet up on my table, drinking a coke and he
said: " Tulku, we should be happy!
We found this amazing path!"
Love and Compassion Starts With
Before generating love and compassion toward other
beings, we should find happiness in ourselves. Do not seek happiness
outside. Don't think that
the perfect society or the perfect leader or perfect job can make you
happy. Nothing can make us happy.
Happiness only arises in us finding out the meaning of life.
transcend guilt about our negativities, which arise from doubt about who
we are, then we discover inner freedom. Happiness is the ultimate desire
of all beings. Buddha said
that. His Holiness the
Dalai Lama says that. Desire for happiness is very spiritual. It's not a very negative
attachment. But when you have desire toward happiness aversion comes
with it. You develop
aversion to samsara or society. So we must always pat attention to our
minds, and not project.
Asanga said one of the signs that human beings have Buddha nature is
their aversion to worldly life. But sometimes that turns into depression
and anger and judgement.
The true message of that aversion you experience is that you are
desiring higher spiritual achievement and are not content with
superficial spiritual achievement.
The difference between finding the path and not is
that the ones who are on the path are seeking for the cause of suffering
in their lives, and the result is finding the cause of happiness. This
is dharma practice. The
ones who aren't on the path have no idea where suffering comes from and
how it arises. Sentient beings are infantile spiritually. They want happiness but they
only create more suffering, by being attached to hope, fear, and
projecting onto outer circumstances.
the cause of enlightenment? We must start with at least some
intellectual understanding or conviction that we have Buddha
But we don't need to get a spiritual revelation
from God or Shiva or even Buddha.
We already have it.
We just have to use it. Kabir said that many spiritual people are
like a fish who is thirsty in the water. We suffer and are destitute
spiritually but it is very ironic.
What we are looking for, freedom, enlightenment and happiness, is
already in each of us. The
only problem is that we have yet to dispel the illusion that we are not
enlightened means we are filled with inexhaustible qualities of
acceptance, love and forgiveness for all beings. For instance, if Buddha
came to your house he would be a very good worker, very tolerant and
disciplined, also very humble.
Spiritual practice would affect every aspect of his life, filled
with great discernment, overflowing with compassion in every
sometimes dharma should be the vital force of our life. It should be the foundation of
our career, all of our worldly activities. This means embodying principles
of love and wisdom. Breaking down hope and fear and developing love and
compassion is spirituality and it is not separate from everyday
There are different ways of being a good citizen.
Milarepa said, "Everyone looks crazy to me, and to them, I look crazy
too." Do you remember from
Milarepa's biography? After
he achieved Buddhahood, he was a wandering monk and so he stayed in a
monastery one night. He
begged from a monk to share his space. The monk said, "I'm very careful
with guests. Why don't you
sleep under the overhang on my deck." The monk had no idea that
Milarepa was the most amazing yogi. But Milarepa was omniscient. This monk had a yak he was going
to sell to a butcher, to get meat and skins, and sell every part of the
animal to make big profit. The monk didn't sleep all night because he
was busy pricing all the parts of the yak – the liver, the leg, the
The monk got up early and started practicing
sadhana, just going through the motions. During the monk's practice
Milarepa started snoring
loudly. The monk kicked him
and said, "You wear clothes like a practitioner but look at you. You're
a lazy bum." Milarepa said,
" I'm sorry. I couldn't sleep all night because I was so busy thinking
about the yak I'm going to sell to make big profit."
have to bring together dharma practice and daily life. Dharma is like an
arrow. Its not enough to
just have an arrow. We have
to have a target. Dharma is an arrow, but our lives, our careers,
relationships are the targets. In Vajrayana Buddhism they
talk about increasing the level of dharma practice through actions. Even driving a car can be
So life is always about encountering situations
with an open heart, in every moment. All situations, impermanence,
sickness, death, good health and well-being, being at a party, going to
the movies, making huge plans, getting divorced, getting married. We are constantly encountering
situations. That is what we
call reality. How are we
going to relate and respond to those situations? That's where we can find freedom
If we respond from projection, anger, the result
is sorrow. But if we change
the way we respond from habitual way through more Dharmic way, through
accepting reality by understanding people and situations with love, then
life becomes more full of this same love, understanding and insight. We
need to use dharma situations to respond to whatever is in front of us.
The Truth is always apparent, Buddha is always smiling at us.
push all of our buttons. It
will bring up all of our habitual tendencies. If we respond to Death with our
usual way, with hope and fear, then death can be a very miserable experience for
us. But if we apply the
view of emptiness, infused with love and forgiveness, then death becomes
a beautiful process, a doorway to enlightenment.
No matter where we are, everything is sacred and
divine when we are not resistant to any situation. Just accept whatever is
happening in this moment.
If we can, then we become like a bodhisattva, loving and caring
for everyone around us.
this book called Now or Never, and I liked the title so much I used it
in Dharma talks. Now is the
best time to wake up!