Songs & Poems




The Role Of Meditation In Buddhism
The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche
Excerpted from the transcript of "Tranquility And Insight Meditation" (Texas 1992)
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Buddhism is a pure science of the mind, working with our mental development, and also a pure philosophy of humanity.  It is also the science of insight. Its purpose is to serve as a method for removing the confusion which obscures our mind, and thereby illuminating, expanding or bringing out the unconfused wisdom which is present in our minds. 

The Buddhadharma is fundamentally as pure and free as water.  Water has no shape or color--it depends on the container it is put into.  Yet the nature of the container (whether of iron or of gold) does not change the nature of the water.

Similarly, the Buddhadharma has no color or shape.  It is not what we conceptualize it to be.  We see from the history of Buddhism how it has traveled from India throughout the east, and adopted different shapes and colors, but it still has the same pure essence.

It is only possible to get a complete taste of this water by meditating and contemplating what we have heard.  Hearing, meditating and contemplating are the three prajnas, and all three are necessary.  Studying is important because without prajna, knowledge of our practice is not clear.  It is like walking without eyes--we may reach our destination, or we may not.  Our path is foggy without prajna eyes.  We must see the path clearly--where and how we are walking.

Without the other two aspects, we have clear eyes but no feet.  We can see the path and destination, but we can't go there.  First one must learn, then reflect thoroughly.  We must internalize and overcome the conceptual mind.  We may have some experience but no realization.  It is like chocolate chip cookies.  Learning about the dharma is like having a recipe for chocolate chip cookies.  Contemplating the dharma is like smelling the odor of the cookies baking.  But we still need to take them out and eat them--this is meditation.

Therefore, all three stages are necessary to achieve enlightenment.  We cannot lack even one.  As Gampopa said, "To combine hearing, contemplating and meditation is the unmistakable implementation of the dharma."  

In general it can be said that the root and basis of all Buddhist meditation is the practice of tranquillity. 

As I mentioned, the explanation of tranquillity is to be found in the eighth section of The Treasury of Knowledge, which is an examination of the training in excellent meditative absorption.  We talked briefly about the three stages of practice: hearing, reflection and meditation.  Among these the practice of tranquillity is the beginning of the third step, the practice of meditation.  The tremendous importance of meditation practice is explained in this book by Jamgon Lodro Thaye using the following example or metaphor.  If one were a farmer and had an excellent field, planted it with the proper seeds, and it had the conditions necessary for their growth into crops, and the crops ripened into their result, still that would not be sufficient; that would not satisfy one's hunger.  One still has to go through the process of harvesting the crop, and then using it as food.  In the same way, even though one understands the dharma, it is not enough.  There has to be the actual implementation of that understanding in practice.

Meditation is so important for that reason.

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