|Rinpoche would like to welcome everybody who has come
from many parts of the country to listen to the teachings,
tashi deleg to you all. Tonight there is going to be a general
introduction to Dharma. Generally speaking, in Tibetan, when
you talk about a practitioner, sanje nampa means a person who
is studying something inner. We have inner and outer aspects
and the inner aspect means learning about one's mind, which is
within. So that is what it means to be a Buddhist.
Our mind is very important and all our experiences of
happiness and unhappiness arise in the mind. So if we can
train our minds then happiness will arise naturally. This
happiness is real lasting peace which you will have in the
external environment as well as in your inner mind.
What are the main teachings of the Buddha? The teaching
is that one should pacify one's mind. So one should generate
inner peace in one's mind. Buddha taught three different
gradual paths to help us realise inner peace within our minds.
They are Hinayana, Mahayana and the Secret Vajrayana. This is
all the different of Buddhist teachings brought into three
So why is it necessary that the Buddha taught in three
different ways or three different paths? He presented the
teaching in such a way because sentient beings of the world
have different types of mind, different characteristics. Some
people have very open, vast minds, some people have a very
closed type mind. For that reason the Buddha taught varying
techniques, not just one. However if one reaches the very end
of any of the three paths, the result is the same, the final
result is complete enlightenment.
You can have an example of this. We arrived from London
today. How did I arrive? I came in a car. I came along one
particular path or road. It is possible for another person to
have taken a plane and come from London and arrive at Samye
Ling. The airport is a little bit further away. It is also
possible that a man might come from London to Samye Ling by
walking. Who would arrve first? The person who came in the
airplane would be the one you would think would arrive first.
The slowest approach to Samye Ling from London would be by
walking and the medium would be in a motorcar. But the
quickest and swiftest way to arrive in Samye Ling would be by
But whichever of the three methods you choose to come
from London to Samye Ling, you always end up in the same
place; the final destination will be Samye Ling. Some people
prefer to go in a plane. Some people don't like flying, so
they prefer to go in a car. Some people are frightened of
flying, they think the plane is going to crash and they can't
drive either, because they become extremely carsick. So they
have no alternative but to walk. Eventually they'll get here.
Likewise we as human beings want to reach the level of
enlightenment. So whether we have followed the path of
Hinayana, Mahayana or Secret Mantra Vajrayana, that's up to
our own feeling of connection, how our mind is with these
particular paths. Whichever we follow, we get to the same
final destination. That was the general explanation of the
three types of vehicles, three paths.
The teachings that the Buddha
manifested when he turned the Wheel of Dharma can be condensed
into Four Noble Truths. All the entire teachings of Hinayana,
Mahayana and the Secret Mantra Vajrayana are contained in
these Four Noble Truths. What are the Four Noble Truths? The
first one is the Truth of Suffering and the second one is the
Truth of Origination. The third one is the Truth of Cessation
and the fourth noble truth is the Truth of the Path. There we
have the four.
If a being wants to reach the level of complete
enlightenment, they need to understand these Four Noble
Truths. What is the reason for that? The Buddha has given an
example. The first truth is like sickness and the second is
the cause of sickness. The third one is how to live happily
and in prosperity and the fourth is a medicine. If you put all
these together, do you think you will be free of illness? If
you don't have illness in the first place, then you can't
become free of illness. You can't become better, can you, if
there is no illness in the first instance? If we say:
"becoming better" or "getting over a sickness", it means that
we have to have somebody who is sick in the first place. To be
free of sickness, how do we achieve that? We need to
understand the cause of sickness. If we manage to understand
the cause of sickness and we can pacify it, what happens to
us? We will be able to live in happiness and
How do we obtain the ability to live happily and in a
prosperous state? By taking various medicines. You could also
have a few operations! What I really mean is that whatever the
doctor says, you listen to him. The doctor might say, "Don't
eat sweet things because they will be harmful to your
If you rely on these three points:1. the type of
activity one performs, 2. the type of food one consumes 3. the
type of medicine one takes, then one will definitely free
oneself from sickness. To free ourselves of sickness we
combine the four examples just mentioned.
There is a connection between this and the teachings of
the Buddha. The first example of sickness is like the first
Truth of Suffering. The cause of sickness, which is the second
example, is related to the Truth of Origination. The ability
to live happily and in a prosperous state is connected with
the Truth of Cessation. The ability to live happily and
prosperously is due to a cause. What is that cause? It is the
fourth example, which is medicine, which is related to the
Truth of Path. This is an explanation of the Four Truths
presented by the Buddha.
How can we understand how to practise with these Four
Truths? We need to know about the truth of suffering. What do
we need to know about suffering? The Truth of Origination
means that we have to know what is it we need to abandon. The
Truth of Cessation means we have to know what we need to
obtain. The Truth of the Path means we have to know what we
can depend on. If you can understand these four aspects,
realise the meaning properly, then you will understand the
general meaning of all of the buddhadharma which is
How do we understand this Truth of Suffering? How do we
remove suffering? Suffering has to remove itself. How do we
accomplish that? First of all, we have to understand about
suffering. Normally in our minds we have misconceptions,
thinking that things are permanent and also we are ignorant of
the nature of suffering. As much as you have in your mind a
fixed idea that things are permanent; as much as you are
ignorant of the nature of things and have great grasping; that
is how much you will suffer.
Some people think that they shouldn't think about
suffering at all, and even back away from the word. The person
who has this idea does not suffer less. In fact their
suffering can become greater. But the majority of suffering
that we tend to experience is illusory, not real. If one
observes suffering, the suffering will disappear. and we will
naturally understand the nature of suffering. If one naturally
understands the nature of suffering, it will naturally
disappear. So then recognizing or understanding the nature of
suffering is very important. I will give you an
This example is to do with a man who is very scared of
snakes. He was constantly thinking: "I don't want to meet
snakes, snakes are very bad for me." Even if he heard the word
"snake" he became scared. But he had a bad friend. So the man
who feared snakes was in his house. The light wasn't good
inside, and outside it was dark. The man was at his home quite
happily but then the door opened all of a sudden, and his bad
friend was there. He had a thin rope in his hand, and he
rushed to the man throwing the rope over his head. As the rope
fell over the man, who was sitting down on the floor, the bad
guy said, "Oh dear, there is a snake on your head!." When the
rope fell on the ground the man who had the fear of snakes
thought he had seen a snake, and the rope seemed to move from
side to side. "There is a real snake!" He thought he was in
great danger and suffered greatly. He couldn't move and his
hair stood on end. "What am I going to do?"
Of course what he had seen was not a snake at all, it
was just a thin rope, but the man did not recognize it.
Because of that misunderstanding, the non-recognition of the
fact that it was a piece of rope, he had a lot of suffering.
In reality it was a piece of rope, but his skin was crawling
and he was unable to walk - this was all meaningless
suffering, wasn't it? At that moment, what kind of method
could he use? The method would be to recognize the thin piece
of rope to be just that: a thin piece of rope.
Another friend came. This was a good friend and he
said, "That's not a snake on the floor, look, it's just a
piece of a thin rope." What a release! Wonderful! All the
suffering he had a moment ago had completely gone. He could go
where he wanted to and also he picked up the rope. Yet at the
beginning he wasn't able even to look at the rope, because he
thought it was a snake.
The first Truth of Suffering means to be aware of and
really recognize suffering: what suffering is and how to
remove it. This is related to the Truth of Suffering. If we
understand the real nature of suffering and how it is, then
this is related to relative truth. One will naturally
understand relative truth. If one has understanding of this
natural state of relative truth, that will give one the power
to dispel many types of unnecessary suffering, which one
normally goes through. We have many types of meaningless
I'm travelling around the world, going to many
countries and seeing many types of people. And many different
kinds of people have conversations with me. There are many
people who have all kinds of meaningless problems, meaningless
suffering. Most of them are in the West. I'm not talking just
about England or Scotland. So, one person came up to speak to
me. He said: "Normally I like to drive my car. I am very happy
driving, but I have one problem. I can't drive a car with this
problem." "What's the problem?" My particular problem is that
when I drive and come to traffic lights, I am afraid the
traffic lights are going to fall over and hit me on the head.
That prevents me from driving, because I'm so frightened of
the traffic lights. I'm driving along looking out, in case I
meet a traffic light and
I can't drive very well because
I'm waiting to see the traffic light."
That kind of suffering is completely without reason or
meaning. There are many problems like that, many sufferings.
But if one knew the natural state of the relative truth, that
kind of suffering would be dispelled. If one understands the
natural state of relative truth and also the nature of
emptiness, then all of this meaningless suffering will
diminish. Also one's grasping will diminish.
Now I have a question. I am not asking you, I'm asking
myself. You don't have to worry! So then, we had a thin piece
of rope on the table and we thought that was a snake. The good
friend came along and said it was a piece of rope, so
therefore the suffering was removed. What would have happened
if the bad friend had got the rope, which I thought was a
snake, and tied it around my neck? At that moment when I knew
it was a rope, it would not have been any use for the bad
friend to tie it around my neck. What kind of method do we
have there? This is the first stage of wisdom. So it's not
enough for you to understand this, we have to go into it in a
So, just understanding that a rope is a rope is not
enough, but we should understand that the rope is a rope, and
there is no point in tying it around the neck. The way we
progress or go deeper into understanding of wisdom is
understanding emptiness. The understanding of the nature of
emptiness is connected with the third truth, the Truth of
Cessation. If one really understood completely the nature of
emptiness, one would not be able to have the rope tied around
one's neck. Taking an example of Milarepa, the great saint of
Tibet, he couldn't be burned by fire, he could walk through
walls or rocks unobstructedly, and no harm could come to him.
What's the reason for that? His body is emptiness and the fire
is emptiness, how can the fire of emptiness burn the body of
emptiness? If one understands completely the nature of
emptiness, this kind of result will happen. If the bad friend
tied the rope around one's neck, there wouldn't be anybody to
have the rope tied around.
Even though we have had a brief explanation of
emptiness, it's not complete, so it wouldn't be any good for
you to jump into fire, you would be burned. That's just a
general explanation of suffering.
Then we'll talk about the second truth, which is the
truth of origination. Related to that are the conflicting
emotions in the mind, and karma. The real source of suffering
is conflicting emotions in the mind, anger, pride, jealousy
etc. and along with that, great grasping. Grasping, along with
the five mind poisons, causes us to experience a lot of
suffering and problems. If a person has a lot of anger within
them, they never gain a state of peace. When they see other
people, they think that these people are looking at them with
harmful intent. So they just sit there and look at other
people thinking: that man is staring me strangely. If one has
this great anger within oneself, these experiences will arise.
If I put on yellow tinted spectacles, when I look at a house
which was painted white I won't perceive it as white, I shall
perceive it as yellow. If I put blue lenses on, I will
perceive everything to be blue. If I put green lenses on, I
will perceive everything to be green.
So, if we have any of these five mind poisons to a
great degree, then we will never be able to obtain a state of
peace. Along with these mind poisons we perform activities of
negative karma, and the joint result of these is experiencing
lot of suffering. If we can clear away the conflicting
emotions, then we won't generate karma; that will be cut off,
obstructed. If we don't generate karma then we don't generate
the cause to experience the fruition, which is suffering, and
that will be removing the Truth of Suffering. Finally the
karma itself and the suffering will both be eliminated. Then
if you want to jump in the fire, it's okay. If you can dispel
all your suffering, then all illusions will also be
In general, if anyone of us experiences illness, to get
rid of the illness, what kind of method can we use? If we can
remove or stop the cause of the illness, then the illness will
be dispelled. Now I'm going to ask you a question. It's not
There is a tall house and on the roof there is a small
hole. Through the hole the rain comes drip by drip. It falls
down to the floorboards which become rotten over time and all
the carpets get soaked. What can we do at that point?
Answer: Sell the house.
Rinpoche. That's one method.
But it's not the first solution.
Answer: Block the hole.
Get a bucket. Stop the rain.
Rinpoche: How can you stop the
Answer: That's why I'm here!
I'm going to tell you what I think is the best method is to
block the hole. If you don't block the hole, the rain is going
to continue to drop down. If you put a bucket or any container
there, eventually it will be filled up and spill over. You can
also wipe up every drop as it drops down. It never ends,
because you haven't addressed the real problem which is the
cause of the rain drops. If you recognise straight away,
"There are rain drops falling through the ceiling", you go up,
see the hole, fix it and all is fine. You don't need to get
tired out by cleaning up.
If you can remove the cause of suffering or illness,
the suffering or illness will not arise again. If we don't
succeed in really removing all the causes of the illness, it
will arise again at some point in the future. You might take
one type of medicine and it temporarily cures it, but again it
will arise. So it's not completely removed. It will go on like
this, until one really addresses the point, which is removing
the whole of the cause. That was the explanation of the second
truth, Truth of Origination.
The third truth is the Truth of Cessation. Related to
the Truth of Cessation is recognizing emptiness and the nature
of one's mind. Emptiness and the nature of one's mind, which
is Buddha nature or Buddha essence are not different, they are
actually inseparable. What is the nature of this natural state
of the mind, this buddha nature? It has complete happiness and
joy; it doesn't have any suffering or illness. It's like that
all the time. That is what we call resting in happiness. That
is related to the example of living happily and in prosperity.
The Buddha has told us that all sentient beings who possess
mind all have Buddha nature. Every single being has that.
Buddhists and nonbuddhists alike have that. Whether you are a
religious person or not religious at all, you have that. It's
the same. Also with human beings and animals it's the same.
All beings of the six realms of existence possess Buddha
nature. Also the Buddha has Buddha nature. The Buddha nature
that the Buddha possesses and the Buddha nature that I possess
or each of us possess, is exactly the same, there is no
difference. You don't say that the difference between us and
the Buddha is that the Buddha is excellent and I'm bad, the
Buddha is excellent and we are also excellent. But because we
don't know that, we are wandering in samsara. It is ignorance
about our Buddha nature that makes us wander in samsara. I
shall give an example.
There is a man with a big lump of gold. He is driving
along in a car and the big lump of gold falls out of the
window into mud. He goes up and down but he can't find the
gold. He gives up and drives off. After one thousand years the
gold is still in the mud. One day someone comes cleaning the
road. If he cleaned it with a machine, he wouldn't know
anything about the gold, but he is cleaning it by hand. While
cleaning up the dirt he finds this big lump of gold. He cleans
all impurities, mud and stains from it. It becomes very bright
and shiny and he puts it on top of his shrine. Now I'm going
to ask a question: the gold which was hidden in the mud for a
thousand years and the gold which is put on the shrine, which
one is the most precious?
Answer: They are the same.
Rinpoche: Yes, they have
got the same essence. The absolute truth is like that. The
essence of the gold is the same. That is the example given by
the Buddha. So the essence of the Buddha and our essence is
identical. So then, if the gold is in the mud or the gold is
clean on the shrine it's the same. We are rather like the
piece of gold which is covered by mud. The illusions are
obscuring us, covering us up. There is the illusion of our
impure body, the illusions of the various phenomena that
appear to us, different appearances, this is the illusion. And
also we have the illusions of birth and death and sickness.
But if we understand completely the nature of emptiness of
phenomena and our natural state, which is nature of mind,
Buddha nature, then gradually over time we will completely
purify all the illusions. At that point we will really be able
to live happily and in prosperity and we will be like the
Buddha, the same. That's the explanation of the Truth of
The fourth truth is the Truth of the Path. The Buddha
has taught us the Path in a gradual way. There are two aspects
to the path. There is the preliminary practice and the main
practice. Within the preliminary practice, divide that into
two points, the ordinary preliminaries and the extraordinary
preliminaries. Also there are two further divisions in the
main practice: shine and lhaktong. This is all related to the
Truth of Path.
We depend on or rely on the Truth of the Path. If we
practise and depend upon the idea of the Truth of the Path, we
will gain a glimpse of our Buddha nature. Slowly, slowly it
will become clearer, and eventually the final result will be
that we achieve complete enlightenment. That is the
explanation of the fourth truth, the Truth of the Path. If you
have questions, please ask.
Question: Is all suffering meaningless?
The answer will be given in a form of an example. So, we have
the rope, which we had before. Seeing the rope as a snake, the
misperception of a rope to be a snake, that's meaningless
suffering. But then, if you think of the perception of a rope
being a rope, that's related to conventional truth, relative
truth and at that point it's true. It's true because of the
experience of relative truth. But ultimately the rope doesn't
exist even as a rope. So then if one understands the nature of
emptiness of phenomena and the natural state of one's mind as
Buddha nature, then the grasping at the idea of a rope being a
rope is dispelled. If you want to put this in a brief answer:
yes, all suffering is meaningless.
Q: Why does ignorance happen?
R: It is because we
don't recognise Buddha nature, our essence, and therefore we
engender suffering. We don't understand the emptiness of
Q: How does ignorance come about?
is no beginning. You can't say that there is a point when I
didn't have ignorance. Up until now I have had it. The whole
of space is beginningless, endless. There is no beginning and
no end. Some people have come up wth the big bang theory, that
space becomes shortened, compressed. They call that space. But
the Buddha has stated that that is not space, he doesn't
describe space like that. The Buddha has said that space is
unobstructed and permeates everywhere. If you want to persist
with the big bang theory, the big bang has to happen within
something, it has to have some kind of parameters to big bang
in. If there aren't parameters, how can you big bang? Sentient
beings are said to be like endless space,
Q: If there is no beginning, how can we hope for the
end of suffering?
R: You can have no beginning and yet
experience ending. For example, if you have a seed and you
burn it, it won't give rise to a shoot. So, there is an end of
samsara. There is no end to the nature of one's mind. If we
eliminate impure perceptions or illusions, there is no need
for us to travel around in samsara anymore. If you burn a
seed, the ashes will not produce a shoot.
Q: Will there be a time when all sentient beings have
R: It is actually difficult, because
sentient beings are limitless.
Q: How in everyday life can you see the purest
R: The best method is to understand the nature of
emptiness of phenomena and to realize the nature of one's
mind, the Buddha nature. I'm going to show you an example.
Please look. Now I'm rolling the paper into a tube. First of
all we train in realizing or understanding the nature of
emptiness of phenomena. After that gradually we start to
understand the nature of the mind. When one is practising the
understanding of emptiness and the nature of mind, first one
has little understanding of it. Then gradually one repeats the
training again and again and then one's experience or
understanding will become greater and greater.
This is an example of illusion. From beginningless time
samsara has been evolving round and round like this: illusion,
rebirth, samsara (the paper is rolled tightly). Holding into
everything, grasping. Now we understand emptiness - it becomes
a little bit looser (Rinpoche lets go of his grip from the
roll which opens a little). Again one practises and one's
realization becomes greater. (He pulls the roll into a plain
sheet. When he lets go of his grip the paper rolls back into a
roll.) When you go outside you lose it! Again you think:
"Everything is emptiness." Then it becomes very vast. (He
pulls the paper back into a sheet.) Then you drink a cup of
tea. (Rinpoche lets go of his grip and the paper rolls up
again.) Again you lose it. Every time you realize about
emptiness it's a little bit better than before. (The paper
starts to stay flat.) Again and again you practise until you
reach enlightenment, complete buddhahood. Then one completely
pacifies all the illusions.