WHEEL OF LIFE
IMPERMANENCE IN THE FORM OF DEATH
YAMA, LORD OF DEATH(Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche began the
day's discourse by quoting these lines by the great scholar and spiritual adept
Gendun Tenzin Gyatso:
It is the essence
of the unerring Kangyur and Tengyur,
false, made-up teachings of others.
It represents the views of the great
unlike the speech of fools.
It contains the realized
experience of learned adepts,
unlike the frenzied delusions of others.
is the great road to supreme enlightenment,
unlike the terrifying abyss of
Following this, he explained briefly how we should correct our
motivation, adding words of praise for the teaching being given. Then he
enumerated the various sections of the outline covered in previous days and
reviewed all the instructions that come after the section entitled "Serving a
spiritual teacher through action," which itself forms the final portion of the
division entitled "The root of the pathhow to serve a spiritual teacher.")
Between meditation periods, we should primarily read scriptures that
deal with the subject at handin this case, the leisure and fortune of an
excellent human rebirth.
The reason for reflecting on the just-completed
teachings about our leisure and fortune, their great value, and the difficulty
of obtaining them is so that we will generate the desire to derive true meaning
from our human form. It is only when we succeed in evoking this desire that we
are in fact ready to begin training our mind in the stages of the path for the
three types of practitioner. This is because the value that we ultimately derive
from our leisure and fortune will be either small, medium, or great depending
upon how well we are able to train our mind in each of these three divisions of
Moreover, if we wish to attain the goal of Buddhahood, we
must start by generating the earlier paths, each in their respective order. For
without first generating the earlier paths, any attempt we make to generate the
later ones will end in failure. When pilgrims travel from Kham to view the image
of Lord Shakyamuni, for instance, they do so with their mind fixed on
the Lord from the time they first leave home. But they must make their way
gradually, following the road step by step. They can't just take one great leap
and bring themselves before the Lord. Similarly, we cannot generate such higher
paths as compassion without first having generated the lower ones of
renunciation and the like. This point is also implied in the following verse
from Engaging in Bodhisattva Activities:
Never before, not even
in their dreams,
Have these very sentient beings ever
Had such a desire
even toward themselves.
How could they experience it toward others?
expressions "person of lesser capacity" and "person of moderate capacity," are
intended to suggest that we must train our mind in certain stages of the path
that are held in common with persons of lesser and moderate capacity. They do
not mean that we should train ourselves in the actual paths that persons of
lesser and moderate capacity themselves practice.
This point can be
explained with the analogy of three travelersone of whom is going to Tashi
Hlunpo, another to Rong, and a third to Chushur. The first
person, the one whose destination is Tashi Hlunpo, will proceed in part over the
same road that the two other travelers use. However, all three individuals have
different aims. Two intend to go no farther than Rong and Chushur, respectively.
But the third does not plan to stay in either of those places; he intends to
continue on to Tashi Hlunpo.
Thus, even when we are practicing the
Lamrim topics that are associated with persons of lesser and moderate capacity,
we must keep in mind that our goal is to achieve Buddhahood for the sake of all
sentient beings. For this reason, we must recognize that generating
enlightenment mind represents the main practice of the overall Lamrim teaching,
and that the paths which are held in common with persons of lesser and moderate
capacity are meant to serve as preparations for generating that mind.
You might think, "Well then, why don't we refer to the initial Lamrim
topics as part of the path for persons of great capacity, since it would seem
that the terms 'lesser' and 'moderate' serve no purpose?" Nonetheless, these
terms do serve two specific purposes.
purpose is the great benefit that it provides to persons of high, moderate, and
lesser intellect. This refers [in part] to the fact that
some individuals are unable to train their minds from the outset in the
practices for persons of great capacity. Therefore, they are instructed to
practice the stages of the path relating to persons of lesser and moderate
capacity as a way of training themselves more gradually.
purpose is to overcome pride. It is the pride
we might develop through believing ourselves to be Mahayanists and
practitioners of tantra despite having failed to generate even the attitude of
renunciation because we did not cultivate the earlier Lamrim paths.
order to generate the enlightenment mind which forms the main practice of the
Lamrim teaching, we must generate the compassion which cannot bear the suffering
that torments others. But before we can generate this compassion, we must
realize the manner in which we ourselves are tormented by suffering. And, in
order to gain this second realization, it is necessary for us to realize that
the nature of all samsara is suffering. However, before gaining that
realization, we must first develop fear regarding the suffering of the lower
states. For if we lack the fear of being reborn in the lower states, we will be
unable to develop aversion for the pleasures of human and divine life [167b].
So the reason we need to train ourselves in the paths which are held in
common with persons of lesser capacity is that these practices are like the base
or foundation of a building. Unlike certain accomplished practitioners, we
cannot generate spiritual results out of sequence.
Milarepa practiced the common paths while under Marpa's tutelage. Many of his
spiritual songs describe how he attained the realizations associated with those
practices. Moreover, the speediness of the secret mantra path is a quality that
must be elicited by properly practicing the Lamrim teachings. Indeed, this point
is alluded to in the very titles of the instruction texts known as Easy
Path and Quick Path.
Milarepa did not achieve the united pair
his lifetime by the mantra path alone. He succeeded because he had also
practiced the path associated with the three types of practitioner in past
lives. It is mentioned in the Initial Instructions for Training the
other instruction traditions that he was the Kadampa Chaktri Chok in his former
([Kyabje Rinpoche summarized by making the following point.] While
it is necessary to train ourselves in the common Mahayana path before
entering that of the secret mantra, many of us ignore this principle and seek to
enter the Mantrayana from the outset. Such persons typically pretend to
meditate on the two stages of Anuttarayoga tantra even while
failing to observe the pledges of tantric morality. But all they are really
doing by this is throwing themselves into the Adamantine Hell.)
must, therefore, correct our attitude at the outset and engender a strong-minded
determination in which we are able to reflect: "If I have to, I will meditate
all my life on a single Lamrim topic." The more common practice, though, is to
adopt such determination toward worldly affairs. But this represents a mistaken
kind of strong-mindedness. As for weak-mindedness, the object toward which our
resolve should be weak is worldly activity, while the object toward which
it shouldn't be weak is the dharma.
If we can strive so
courageously that we are able to reflect, "There is no dharma practice that I
cannot master successfully," then we won't have to actually spend months or
years meditating on the same topic. As Geshe Kamapa declared:
You say: "I am not succeeding in my contemplation practice." But when
did you contemplate? During the day you were continually distracted and at night
you slept. So don't be a liar!
are even worse than this. Although we haven't meditated on the points associated
with a single meditation topic for even one morning period, we still wonder why
we haven't generated any spiritual realizations. This is utterly wrong thinking!
Some of us may not want to practice with a firmness that is like "rock
meeting bone." We might even
wish to be able to generate the Lamrim's spiritual realizations by closing our
eyes briefly and reciting such prayers as the Basis of All Virtues.20 But
these are extremely unrealistic desires.
The Kadampa teacher Gomba
had a saying: "Train your eyes far ahead, keep a strong mind, and remain
inwardly free." This admonition conveys three important principles. The first
means that we should set our sights on the ultimate goal of Buddhahood. The
second means that we should develop a strong determination toward practicing the
paths for persons of lesser and moderate capacity. The third means that, when
meditating, we should remain relaxed. That is, we should develop an
evenmindedness that is neither too strained nor too lax.
We should also
maintain evenmindedness toward our regular practice. For instance, after hearing
a dharma teaching from our guru's lips, we sometimes develop a shallow kind of
renunciation that is short-lived and unsteady. A person who has this attitude
will at first become very excited about practicing dharma. But after only a few
days his enthusiasm will disappear. This is a sign that such a person will not
carry through his practice to completion.
2. The methods of deriving
value from a human form possessing leisure and fortune
of how to derive value from our leisure and fortune is divided into three parts:
(1) training the mind in the levels of the path that are held in common with
persons of lesser capacity;
(2) training the mind in the levels of the path
that are held in common with persons of moderate capacity; and
the mind in the levels of the path for persons of great capacity.
Training the mind in the levels of the path that are held in common with persons
of lesser capacity
The first section has two parts: (1) generating
an attitude of concern for future lives and
(2) practicing the methods for
achieving happiness in future lives.
i. Generating an attitude of
concern for future lives
This first part also has two sections: (1)
recalling death in the sense that we do not remain long in this life; (2)
contemplating the nature of future lives in terms of the kinds of happiness and
suffering that the two basic types of beings experience.
Recalling death in the sense that we do not remain long in this life
disadvantages of failing to recall death
Back to index