We begin with a brief history of this teaching. When the
great yogi, the Lama Sakyapa, Sachen
Kunga Nyingpo, was twelve years old, one of his Gurus, Bari Lotsawa, advised him, "Since
you are the son of a great spiritual teacher, it is necessary to study the Dharma, and to study the
Dharma requires wisdom. The best way of acquiring wisdom is to practice Manjushri." So,
Bari Lotsawa gave Sachen Kunga Nyingpo the empowerment of Manjushri with all the necessary
"lungs." Then Sachen Kunga Nyingpo undertook a six-month retreat on Manjushri. At the
beginning, there were some signs of obstacles, which he managed to purify through the practice
of the wrathful Deity, Achala. He continued his meditation and at one time, in his pure vision, he
saw Arya Manjushri in the preaching mudra, sitting on a jewelled throne with two other attendants.
He received immense insight-wisdom at that moment and Manjushri bestowed this four-line
teaching directly to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo:
If you desire the worldly aims of this life,
you are not a spiritual person;
If you desire further worldly existence,
you haven't the spirit of renunciation;
If you desire liberation for the sake of yourself,
you haven't the enlightened attitude;
If you grasp at the view of ultimate reality,
you haven't got the right view.
This four-line teaching includes the whole path of the
Mahayana. After receiving this teaching,
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo received a tremendous amount of insight-wisdom. He had no need to
study everything that came to him. He became a really great yogi. Later in life, he bestowed this
teaching on his sons, Sonam Tsemo and Dagpa Gyaltsen, and they bestowed it on Sakya Pandita
and so on. Even to this day, its transmission has never been broken, so therefore, it bears special
blessings. Jetsun Dagpa Gyaltsen, the son of Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, wrote a commentary in
verses to these four lines, and today this text serves as the root text of all these teachings.
"Parting from the Four Desires" is very similar to the
preliminary teachings of the other Tibetan
Buddhist traditions. For example, the Nyingma and the Kagyu traditions have a teaching on
"Turning the Mind," which also explains these four lines. By meditating on this precious human life
and impermanence, you will be liberated from the sufferings inherent in this life. The suffering of
samsara and the law of karma will turn you away from clinging to the round of existence. Love,
compassion, and Bodhicitta will turn you away from clinging to this life as real. We Sakyapas call
it "The Parting from the Four Desires," and Kagyu and Nyingma traditions call it "Turning the
Mind Away from Clinging." The name is different, but the teaching is the same. According to the
Gelugpa tradition, the preliminary teaching is divided into "The Paths of the Three Persons." The
first line explains the "small" person's path, - a person who realizes the lower realms are full of
suffering and wishes to be born in the higher realms, such as that of the devas or humans. The
middle person's path is one that seeks self-liberation. This person is described in the second verse -
they realize that the whole realm of existence is full of suffering, and therefore naturally seeks
self-liberation. The third line explains the great person's path. This person realizes that every
sentient being has the same goal, and that instead of working for oneself, one should work for
the sake of all sentient beings to attain ultimate enlightenment. While the wording is different,
the Gelugpa teaching is, nevertheless, the same as this four-line teaching of "Parting from the
All Buddhist practices begin with taking refuge. In this
teaching, one takes the Mahayana refuge.
Mahayana refuge has some special characteristics. There are four reasons that Mahayana refuge
is somewhat different from general refuge - in terms of the object, the time, the person and the
1. The Object
Common to all kinds of Buddhist refuge are the Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha. However, the
explanation of these three, differs between Mahayana and general Buddhism. In Mahayana,
the Buddha is the one who has unimaginable qualities and who has departed from all the faults.
He is the one who possesses the three kayas ,or the three bodies: the Dharmakaya, the
Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya. Dharmakaya means that his mind, which is completely
purified, has become one with the ultimate truth. Where subject and the object become one is
"Dharmakaya." The Sambhogakaya comes from accumulating enormous amounts of merit while
still on the Path. That produces the highest form of physical body, which has all the qualities,
and remains permanently in the highest Buddha field, known as Akanishtha, and bestows teachings
to the great Bodhisattvas. In order to help ordinary sentient beings, whenever and wherever
needed, the Buddhas appear in whatever form is required. These forms are the Nirmanakaya, or
in other words, emanations. The historical Shakyamuni Buddha is among the Nirmanakayas. He
is called "The Excellent Nirmanakaya" because even ordinary beings can see him as a Buddha.
All the Buddhas who appear in the world are Nirmanakaya forms. In this practice we take refuge
in the Buddha who possesses the three kayas. This is the particular Mahayana explanation of
The Dharma, or Teaching, is the great experience that the
Buddha and all the higher Bodhisattvas
have achieved. Their great realization is the Dharma. When what the Buddhas have achieved is
put into words to benefit ordinary sentient beings, this is also called the Dharma.
The ones who are following the enlightenment path and who
have already reached the irreversible
state are the true Sangha. This Sangha consists of the Bodhisattvas, according to the Mahayana.
The true Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the "Triple Gem" are the Buddhas who possess the
three bodies, the Dharma which expresses their realizations and teaching, and the Sangha of
Bodhisattvas. The Triple Gem is symbolically represented in the images of the Buddhas, all the
books of teachings, and the ordinary Sangha of monks. Although the names of the objects of
refuge are the same in the Mahayana and General refuge, their qualities are explained somewhat
differently in the Mahayana.
2. The Time
The second distinction between the General and the
Mahayana refuge has to do with the
time. In the General refuge, one takes the refuge for the immediate future. In the Mahayana
refuge, one takes refuge from the present, extending up until the attainment of ultimate
3. The Person
In the General refuge, one takes refuge for oneself. In
the Mahayana refuge, one takes
refuge both for oneself and for all sentient beings. One imagines that all sentient beings have
at one time, in previous lifetimes, been your own parents or very dear ones. One seeks
refuge for the benefit of limitless sentient beings.
4. The Purpose
In the General refuge, one takes refuge to gain
self-liberation. In the Mahayana, one takes
refuge to attain enlightenment both for oneself and for the sake of all sentient beings.
If one understands the object, time, person, and purpose
as we have described, they accomplish
the Mahayana refuge. With these qualities in mind, one should recite the refuge prayer as well
as the request to the objects of refuge to bestow their blessings.
In addition, when actually practicing the teachings, the
great Acharya Vasubandu has said
that if one wants to practice Dharma, there are four requisites. The four are: moral conduct,
study, contemplation and meditation. An more detailed explanation of these requisites will
be reserved for another teaching.
Line One of the Text
Line 1 of the text is: "If you desire the worldly aims of this life, you are not a spiritual person."
The great Jetsun Dagpa Gyaltsen explained the first line
in the following way. Whatever practice
you do, if your aim is for the sake of this life, it is not religion; it is not Dharma. No matter what
vows you receive, no matter how much you study, no matter how much you do meditation, if it's
all for the sake of this life, it is not Dharma. If one wishes to practice Dharma, one must begin by
lessening attachment to this life. This life is temporal, it is like a mirage. Even if you think that a
mirage is real water, it still will not slake your thirst. Whatever sorts of moral conduct or study or
meditation that you undertake, if it is for the sake of this life, it will not ultimately benefit you.
To change your intention from not practicing Dharma to
practicing Dharma, you should
begin by meditating on the difficulty of obtaining this precious human life. Human life is
rare compared to other forms of sentient beings, because one human being's body can
contain millions of other sentient beings. This rareness is explained in many different ways -
for example from the point of view of "cause," "numbers," "example" and "nature."
To receive a human life at all, and especially to receive
a human life, which appears in a
favorable place and with the right conditions, one must have a good cause. Such a cause
must be an exceptionally virtuous one in order to lead to human birth with all the right
conditions. In the three worlds, there are very few that practice the virtuous things, while
there are enormous numbers of sentient beings who indulge in non-virtuous acts. So
therefore, from the cause point-of-view, human life that has all the right conditions and is
free from all the wrong places of birth, is very rare.
From the point-of-view of numbers, sentient beings in the
hells, in the hungry-ghost realm,
and in the animal kingdom are countless. Beings in the lower realms are as numerous as all
the atoms and dust particles of this world. Compared to these, human lives are very few,
especially those that have the right conditions.
The example of point-of-view is explained in the Sutras
with the following illustration.
Suppose the whole world is a great ocean and over this ocean floats a golden yoke, which
has a small hole in it. Underneath the ocean is a blind tortoise that comes up to the surface
only once every hundred years. The golden yoke floats on the surface, going wherever the
wind blows it. When the wind comes from the east, it goes to the west. When the wind
comes from the west it goes to the east. It clearly would be very difficult for the neck of the
blind tortoise to enter the hole in the yoke under these circumstances. The chance of this
happening is very rare. Human life, especially one free of all the wrong places of birth and
which has all the right conditions is even more rare than this example. So from the example
of point-of-view, human life is very rare.
The human birth in which one can hear and practice the
teachings requires a number of
particular conditions. The "nature" of this human rebirth is explained in terms of avoiding
rebirth in the "eight wrong places" and being born with the "five conditions." The "eight
wrong places" in which it is unfavorable to be reborn are the states of the hells, pretas,
animals and long-life gods, as well as existence among the barbarians, or persons with
wrong views. Likewise one cannot be born where the Buddhist teachings have not been
given, or with impaired faculties -- such as being dumb, or mentally retarded. There are five
favorable conditions for rebirth. They are, to be born in a place where the teachings have
been given, and where monks and lay-precept holders are still living, not to have indulged in
the five limitless sins, and to live where there is full faith in the teaching in general, and the
Vinaya in particular.
One also has to be born in a time in which a Buddha has
come and in which he has turned
the Wheel of Dharma. The teaching must still be going on, and where there are still many
people following the path, and where there are people who are readily helping you to find
your right livelihood. These circumstances all depend on and must be obtained from others.
So altogether, to be free from the eight unfavorable conditions and to obtain these ten
favorable circumstances is extremely rare by nature. This is not only rare, but also very
precious, because through such a life -- not an ordinary life, but a human life that has all the
right conditions -- one must be able to be free from all the sufferings of samsara. Not only
that, even the most difficult and the highest aim we could aspire to, ultimate enlightenment,
is also achieved through human life. Therefore, human life is extremely precious. Not only
is human life rare and precious, but even this is not enough! We have to practice. Without
practice, just obtaining this very precious opportunity will not be enough. In our past lives,
it is likely that we had many, many such opportunities to practice, but which we wasted and
did not reach any significant states. So, from now on, unless we practice, we will still
remain in samsara. Therefore, when we have such a good opportunity and a precious life, it
is very important to practice Dharma.
The Buddha taught that everything is impermanent. The
whole three worlds are like a cloud
in autumn and the birth and death of sentient beings is like a dancer's movement. A person's
life is like a light in the sky, or like a steep waterfall, which isn't still for a single moment,
but is constantly rushing down. Even the Buddhas who have attained a permanent body in
order to show impermanence to sentient beings must also leave their bodies. Therefore,
there is not a single place where death will not occur. There are many more causes for
death than causes to live. It is a common wish that death will leave us alone, but of course,
all beings eventually have to face death. Everything is changing. Lives in this particular
realm (our lives on the continent of "Jambudvipa") have no fixed length. Some people die
even before they are born, some die as soon as they are born, some die as babies, some die
at a very young age. Although we may have no major problems today, you never know
what will happe n, even after an hour or so. Anything can happen. Unless you practice
now, if you think, "For the time being I will work on some other things, then when I get
older I will practice Dharma," one will never know whether one will get this opportunity or
not. Therefore, it is very important to practice now! At the time of death, nothing can help
you, no matter how powerful one is, no matter how clever, no matter how rich one is, no
matter how brave you are, nothing can help you. Even one's body, which we have had with
us right from the day we were conceived, and which we have looked after as a very
precious thing, and we take great care of, and for whose sake we do all kinds of things --
even this we have to leave behind. Our own continuity of mind then has to go without any
choice of freedom. The only thing that can help you at the moment of death is the Dharma
practices you have learned. If you practice Dharma, the best thing is that at the time of
death, you will know the path and without any h esitation and as a matter of fact, with full
confidence, you will leave your body. The person who practices Dharma has no hesitation
to die, because they will have no regret of not having practiced. This precious human body
and this precious human life are impermanent. The first line, "If you desire for the worldly
aims of this life, you are not a spiritual person," explains directly that whatever spiritual
practice you do, if it is aimed for this life, then it is not Dharma and it will not benefit you.
That's the direct explanation. Indirectly, it explains about the difficulties of obtaining the
precious human life and impermanence. When you have the clear understanding from inside
of these two things, then you will be firmly set on the path. In this sense, even if someone
attempts to keep you from practicing Dharma, it will not be possible for you to stop.
Line Two of the Text
Line two is: "If you desire further worldly existence, you haven't the spirit of renunciation."
If one continues to desire to be born in the human or
deva realms (of course, no one wants to be
born in the lower realms because the lower realms are full of suffering), the second line cuts that
out. It explains that not only should the teaching that you practice not involve attachment to this
present life, but also to be free from the desire for future births in the round of existence. Not only
are the lower realms full of suffering; in the higher realms also, it's all suffering. In the three lower
realms (which are the hells, hungry ghosts, and the animal kingdom), what they have is called "the
suffering of suffering." The hells have many divisions, like the hot hells, the semi-hot hells, etc.
Whenever one is born among the hells, one has an unimaginable amount of suffering. Thus, what
the hell beings experience is called "the suffering of suffering." In the hungry-ghost realm, also the
beings have a tremendous amount of suffering in not finding food. They have great hunger and
thirst for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even if they should find food, instead of helping their
bodies, it creates more suffering. In the animal kingdom, as we all see, animals have to suffer many
things. Most animals have not a single moment of relaxation because they have so many enemies
among the animals themselves. In addition, human beings are hunting and fishing and bringing all
kinds of suffering to them. Generally, all animals suffer great ignorance because they don't have
any way of knowing Dharma. It is very easy for us to realize that the three lower realms are full
The three higher realms are sometimes understood as
having a mixture of happiness and
suffering. However, when we carefully think about it, we can see that there is not any real
happiness in the higher realms. Even in the Deva's realm, where it appears that these beings
have a wonderful life, everything is impermanent. The Devas have so much luxury in their
lives that they don't even think of practicing the Dharma. All their lives are spent in enjoyment
of worldly pleasures, so when they near the time of their death, they experience a particular
king of suffering. For example, they have enough intelligence to be able to see where they will
be reborn. And, as they have spent all their lives in enjoyment, many of them will be reborn in
the lower realms. Since they can know these things, the Devas experience mental suffering
greater than the physical suffering of the lower realms. Even the very great Devas, like Indra,
the lord of the Devas, may be reborn as a very ordinary servant. And even t he great Devas
whose bodies can illuminate the whole world, after death, will be reborn in complete darkness
in which they won't be able to see their own hand before their face. In the human realm, as we
have seen, everything is changing. Great emperors become very ordinary people and the very
rich find themselves very poor. Generally, everyone is bound to encounter the four great mountains
of suffering: death, old age, sickness, and birth. There are many, many sufferings, like always
having fear of meeting enemies and always the fear of departing from your friends. Things you
wish not to happen come true and things you don't want come to you. There are unimaginable
amounts of suffering which are mostly of the kind called "the suffering of change." We suffer for
the very reason that everything is constantly changing. In the asuras or demi-gods' realm, since
they experience great hate and jealously towards the heaven realm, they meet with great suffering
in their life. So the devas, the humans, and the asuras all experience the suffering of change.
Next is "the suffering of aggregates," which covers the
whole universe. Each of us will
undertake work that we will never finish. Our lives are full of continuous effort. Our actions
are never finished. In this great, busy, worldly life of activities, one day we have to die
without finishing this work. Everybody has to die in the midst of life. Therefore, no matter
where one is reborn, whether in the lower realms or in the higher realms, both are full of
suffering. For example, if poison is mixed with food -- whether it is good food or bad food
makes no difference -- one cannot eat it. In the same way, no matter where one is born,
either in the higher realms or in the lower realms, as long as it is within the round of
existence, one will experience suffering.
Related to this is the explanation of the law of karma.
We are forced to ask why the
sufferings we experience happen in the first place. Each thing must have an associated
cause. All kinds of suffering are created by non-virtuous actions. A non-virtuous action is
any action that is created by desire, hatred, or ignorance. Killing, sexual misconduct, and
stealing are the three bodily actions which are non-virtuous. Then also, there are lying,
schism, harsh words, and idle talk, which are the four non-virtuous actions of voice. One
commits these non-virtuous deeds through one's own speech. Envy, hatred, and wrong
view are the three non-virtuous actions of mind. Roughly speaking, all the non-virtuous
actions are included in these ten actions. When one indulges in the ten non-virtuous actions,
not only will one have to face terrible consequences, but even after facing the consequences,
one will have continuous bad results. In other words, all the bad things that are happening in
this life are a lso created by our own non-virtuous actions, which we have committed in our
previous lives. The ten virtuous actions [freedom from hatred, desire, and ignorance] are the
opposite of the ten non-virtuous deeds. Not only do the ten virtuous actions give wonderful
results temporarily, they do so as well for many future lifetimes. In other words, all the good
things that are happening in our life are created by our own virtuous deeds that we have
committed in our previous lives. Finally, by practicing continuous virtuous deeds, self-liberation,
or even the ultimate enlightenment, may be attained.
There are also indifferent or neutral actions, such as
walking and sleeping. Although neutral
actions do not produce any suffering (and from that point-of-view they are very good),
since they do not produce any virtuous result, they are a sort of waste. It is important to
transform these indifferent actions into virtuous deeds. For example, when you are walking
you should think, "May all gain from the path of liberation." When you meet people, you
should think, "May all sentient beings meet virtuous friends." And when you are eating, you
should have the intent of feeding the enormous amount of germs that live in the body. All
the indifferent action should thus be transformed into virtuous deeds.
The sufferings of samsara and the suffering of the round
of existence and the law or karma,
or law of cause and effect, is explained by the second line of this teaching, "If you desire
further worldly existence, you haven't the spirit of renunciation."
By meditating on two things -- concentrating on the
suffering of the round of existence and
the law of karma - you will both turn away from clinging to the round of existence, and
come to the realization that the round of existence is full of suffering. In order to be free
from suffering, one must consider this world as if it were a great fire, or like a nest of
As we meditate on this teaching we will begin to develop
a real inner urge to put these
principles into practice. For example, many yogis concentrate on the sufferings of samsara
until they have the same feeling as a prisoner has. Namely, they develop the single thought:
"When can I escape?" Until you have developed this attitude, you should meditate on the
suffering of samsara. Unless we really understand the sufferings of samsara, one will not
practice Dharma. In this sense, suffering is a great help in the practice of the path. When
Lord Buddha first turned the wheel of Dharma in Sarnath, one of the first things he said
was that one must know the sufferings. The first Noble Truth is that one must know the
sufferings. If you think carefully about this, you won't be able to waste time for very long.
This concludes the explanation of the sufferings of samsara and the law of karma.
Line Three of the Text
Line three is: "If you desire liberation for the sake of yourself, you haven't the enlightened attitude."
If we truly understand that the world is full of
suffering, and believe that we are able to free
ourselves by practicing virtuous deeds, we can actually attain self-liberation. However,
self-liberation does not fully accomplish one's own purpose, and it cannot help other sentient
beings. As a matter of fact, self-liberation is a great obstacle to attaining ultimate enlightenment
because it delays the actual ultimate enlightenment. It is very important right from the beginning
to set out to achieve the highest aim, which is to attain ultimate enlightenment for the sake of
all sentient beings. This ultimate enlightenment must arise from the right cause and conditions.
The main cause is great compassion, the root is Bodhicitta, and the condition is skillful means.
Although every sentient being wishes to be free from suffering and wants to have happiness,
due to ignorance, they can never have these. In this sense it is wrong to aim to be free from
suffering for oneself. We have to think of all other sentient beings. But we are unable to help
them at this moment because our defilements and delusions bind us. So, the only thing that can
help is to attain ultimate enlightenment - so that we will actually be able to help others. To attain
ultimate enlightenment, one has to have the right causes. The first is to meditate on love and
compassion. "Love" means that you wish every sentient being to be happy and to have the
cause of happiness. This wish must be directed to all sentient beings without any discrimination.
Since we cannot produce these thoughts toward all sentient beings at the beginning of our practice,
we proceed gradually. We begin by meditating on love and compassion towards whomever is
dearest to us, for example, our own mother. One begins by visualizing in front of you, your own
mother or anyone who is dear to you. Then, remember all the kindness they have done for you.
For example, if it is your own mother, consider that she gave birth to you, brought you up in life
with a kind, loving eye, gave you so much love and took care of you. Although now she is aiming
for happiness herself, due to ignorance, she cannot have happiness. She is in the midst of suffering
and she is even causing more suffering. Therefore, you should wish that she be free and be happy
and have the cause of happiness. And so you pray, "May she be happy and have the cause of
happiness of the Guru and Triple Gem." Later, you should gradually increase this visualization to
include your relatives and so forth. Finally, include more difficult individual, such as people you
dislike and your enemies. You visualize your enemy right in front of you and think that, although
in this life he appears in the form of the enemy, in actual fact, in many lifetimes he has been my
very kind mother and father, as well as relatives and friends. He has given so much love and
compassion and so much care has been given to me. But now we have changed our lives and
since I did not repay his own kindness to him, today he comes in the form of my enemy to take
all the kindness he has given. Today we have changed our lives; we do not recognize each other,
so therefore, we must create the thought, "May he be happy and have the cause of happiness."
And then gradually you expand this meditation until you can have the same thought towards all
When one is well trained in this meditation of love, one
can also use it to increase feelings
of compassion. First, whoever is dearest to you, you visualize and think, "Although this
person wants happiness, due to ignorance, he is in the midst of suffering. Due to ignorance,
he is making more suffering for himself. May he now be free from suffering and may he be
free from the cause of suffering." And in the same way, later you should try to extend this
meditation to the point that you have the same thought for all beings without discrimination.
When you are well advanced in this meditation, it is
important to practice "Tong Len." In
this practice we visualize that all the happiness and the causes of happiness (that is, the
virtuous deeds one has), are given, without hesitation, to all sentient beings. And the
suffering of all sentient beings as well as their cause of sufferings, come to oneself,
visualized like a great mass of dirt. This "exchanging meditation" is, of course, of great
benefit. When one is well versed in this, then one practices the Six Paramitas and the four
collecting things which we have in the main path of a Bodhisattva. With this we have
completed the first three lines, which explains the method side of all the different paths.
Line Four of the Text
Line four is: "If you grasp at the view of ultimate reality, you haven't got the right view."
The fourth line deals with view. Even if relative
Bodhicitta, the relative enlightenment-thought
has arisen well within your mind, if one still has clinging to all things as reality, then one will fall
into the error of the permanent and the impermanent. Therefore, one will fall into the extremes
of existence and non-existence. Due to this, one will not be free from the sufferings of samsara.
To really be free, it is very important to keep away from clinging to the belief that this life is
real. The antidote for this deluded belief is concentration and insight-wisdom. Concentration is
necessary because our minds are focused on distractions and outer objects. It is really important
to do concentration meditations, because without proper concentration, one will not be able to
attain insight-wisdom. Before one can meditate on insight-wisdom a strong base first must be
built. The base for insight wisdom is concentration. Concentration should be done in a secluded
place, away from distractions, sitting in full-lotus position, or half-lotus position. First, you do recite
the refuge prayer and create the enlightenment thought. Then you should assume the full meditation
position, sitting straight. One should concentrate first on any outer object, preferably an image of
Buddha. In this way you are remembering the Buddha, which in itself has a tremendous amount
of power. You visualize the Buddha's image in front of you on a jewelled throne, golden colored
with his right hand in the earth-touching mudra, and his left hand in his lap in the meditation position.
He is wearing the full robes and sitting in the full-lotus position. Concentrate on this general image
of the Buddha and the specific parts of the body as well. Or, you can meditate on some other
Buddha form, like Buddha Amitabha or other deities. Try to concentrate on this. In the beginning,
it will seem that you have many thoughts, but in fact this is actually what is happening all the time.
Normally, since you follow your thoughts , you don't notice it. In the meantime, when thoughts
come, instead of going after the thoughts, you just concentrate. You turn back and concentrate on
the image for a long period of time. As you develop, your thoughts will decrease, and you will be
able to remain on the same object for a long period of time. Then, after a while, you will be able to
concentrate on the image for a very long period of time. When that happens, it is a sign that your
concentration is now strong enough to be able to meditate on insight-wisdom. Concentration alone
will not do anything, apart from keeping away distractions. It will not take away the deep roots of
To take away the deep root of the defilements,
insight-wisdom is necessary. In Tibetan, the
word for insight-wisdom is "lhag-tong" (lhag mthong). This means that, when you examine
the outer and inner dharmas -- the true nature of all things - through wisdom, then, you are
able to see something completely different. Lhag means "extra" and tong is "to see." So, it
means to see something extraordinary. You see completely beyond existing and non-existing;
you have completely gone beyond the two extremes. The concentration was method and the
actual thing was insight-wisdom. When you managed to meditate on the insight-wisdom instead
of concentrating on an outer object, you concentrate on the actual thing. Before one meditates,
of course, it is necessary to explain a lot of things. First of all, all the different visions that we
see, in other words, animate and inanimate -- all the things that we see. Ordinary people don't
think, "Why do all these things appear?" or, "Why must we have these?" They simply just accept
things as they are. A person with greater intelligence will try to concentrate on these ideas.
Through their intelligence, they are able to examine the true nature of all things: For example,
questions such as "why we are born like this", or "why do we see all these different visions",
"why do people have different visions, why do people have different feelings", and so forth.
In the past, when meditators examined these questions and
tried to discover the true nature
of all things, they all came to different conclusions. For example, that all of existence is
created by Brahma or so forth and so on, according to the different schools of Indian
philosophy. Briefly speaking, there are four different Buddhist schools: two of the Hinayana
and two of the Mahayana. Beginning with the Hinayana schools, the first is the Sarvastivadins
or Vaibahashikas. When they examined these questions, they came to the conclusion that
everything that we see is not existing as we take it to be, but the atoms of these are existing.
For instance, for them, a table is a relative truth. They assert that a table is made of huge
numbers of atoms put together in a particular shape and named "table." So the table is relative,
because when you examine it, you don't find "table" anywhere -- it is just hundreds of atoms.
But, when they examined the atom itself, the tiniest atom they could not divide anymore, they
held it to existing absolutely. Thus, the belief of the Vaibhashika, or lowest Hinayana school, is
that the table is relative truth and the atoms of the table are absolute truth.
Higher than this is the view of the Hinayana school
called the Sautrantika. They think that all the
outer visions are the same as held by the Sarvastivadins. In addition, they hold that the outer object,
the organ of the eye, and the consciousness of the eye -- these three things meet together. Then
in the second moment, the eye, so to speak, takes a picture of that outer object. Finally, all you can
see is the picture which has been taken by your mind. They held that as the truth.
Then, as thinking about these questions developed further
in the Mahayana, there emerged
two schools, the Vijnanavada and the Madhyamika. In the Vijnanavada, it is held that all
this is not true -- that all this is not existing outside, but is all our own projection: It is all
projected by our mind. Everything is mind. Nobody has created what we perceive, only our
own mind has created these things. For that reason, for sentient beings, a certain place is a
very happy place, while for certain people, it is a very miserable place. So, it is all our own
projection -- there is nothing of the outer object -- it is all projected (in other words,
manifested) from our own mind. All this is the relative truth, but the mind exists absolutely.
Even higher than this view is the Madhyamika, which was
founded by the great Guru,
Nagarjuna. The Lord Buddha himself prophesied that after his passing away, there would
be a bhikshu named Naga, and only he would be able to find the hidden meaning of all the
Prajnaparamita Sutras. As Buddha prophesied, Nagarjuna came, and when he examined
things, he could not find anything, because to hold that the mind itself is existing is not right:
The mind is subject and things are object. Subject and object are depending on each other.
If there is no object, there cannot be a subject. So the mind, also, is not existing. But, he
accepts everything relatively -- without examining things -- the way ordinary people take
them to be, as in the form of illusions. But in reality, the Madhyamikas' view is that you
cannot find any conclusion such as "Mind is existing." He could not say anything. The true
nature of everything is completely removed from the dual vision. For example, it is just like
a dream. In th e dream, we see many happy things or we see many sufferings, but when
you awake from your dream, you don't find them anymore. All the things you saw in your
dream are gone, and you don't know where it came from and where it has gone or where it
is staying. In the same way, the present vision is like a very long dream. Only this dream
has very firm propensities, so therefore, we think of it in terms of being very real. In reality,
all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas see that this is just like a dream. When you attain
enlightenment, it is just like awakening from your dream. Therefore, all the visions that you
see are just like reflections in a mirror. Until you have a real firm understanding, you should
try to think that all things are not real. This is what we call the vision and the void seen
non-dually. Relatively, with all the things that you see, the vision doesn't cease -- you can
see all the time. When you try to examine with the sharp reasoning of absolute truth, then
you cannot find anything which is independently existing. You should try to meditate until
you attain a definite understanding of this. Finally, you mix together concentration and
insight-wisdom, and try to think that all the things that were explained are realized as
shunyata. In reality, there is no object "shunyata" and no subject "mind" which realized
shunyata. The true nature of all things is completely merged, just as water is merged with
water and completely becomes one. By doing meditation in this way, your mind will
completely turn away from the clinging to the present vision as real and realize that this is all
illusion. All these illusions will gradually turn away. And then, as you go on, you will be able
to realize the real ultimate truth. By realizing the ultimate truth, then, of course, you depart
from all the defilements and are awakened from all illusions.
At the off-time of meditation, due to your understanding
of shunyata, you understand that
sentient beings who do not realize this shunyata have to suffer a great deal. With that in
mind, you are able to generate great compassion. Through the practice of great compassion
and the understanding of shunyata, -- "just as the bird in the sky needs two wings" --, with
the method, compassion, and the wisdom (shunyata), one will be able to cross the suffering
of samsara. One will be able to attain ultimate enlightenment. In the ultimate enlightenment,
through wisdom you attain the dharmakaya, which accomplishes your tasks, and through
the practice of compassion you will be able to liberate others. In that way , you attain the
Rupakaya and benefit countless sentient beings forever. So with this, we have completed
the whole four lines of the Zhenpa Zhidel.
The following Questions and Answers are related to this topic.
Q: How does a being become a deva? What is it in this
lifetime that we do that brings about
Sakya Trizin: The virtuous deeds like generosity and
moral conduct, etc. The result of those
is either to be born in a human life or the demi-gods' or god's realm. Especially, with a lot of
concentration but without insight-wisdom, just the outer concentration in which your mind
is very stable, one will be able to be born in the gods' realm. Virtuous acts accompanied by
wisdom and with the intention of bodhicitta will become the cause of enlightenment rather
than the worldly path of the devas.
Q: Please explain the concept of karma and its relationship to cause and effect and merit.
Sakya Trizin: Actually the word karma means action or
activities - the work that we
undertake. The life we go through now, and all of its experiences, is the product of our own
actions that we have taken in the past. Nobody can make us suffer. Nobody can make us
happy. Only through the main cause that comes from our own actions will we be happy or
suffer. The main cause is our own action. The actions that we've taken create the effect
and the result.
Q: Are there factors that determine at what time during
this or future lifetimes that the fruit
of a person's virtuous actions will manifest? What are the factors?
Sakya Trizin: It depends on the action itself. There are
certain actions that will ripen in this
life. When the object is strong, the action is strong, and the intention is strong, then the
result ripens in this very lifetime. There are certain actions that ripen in this life after this
lifetime, or even in several lifetimes later. The law of cause and effect is such a subtle thing
that no ordinary person can fully explain it.
Q: Yesterday, you talked about suffering. In your life
you endured much suffering. Your
parents passed away when you were young, you were forced to flee from Tibet. Could you
share with us how you used such events in your practice and what you've learned?
Sakya Trizin: To experience suffering is a great lesson.
The teaching tells you about
impermanence and suffering, but knowing it intellectually and experiencing it in real life is
different. Books can tell you many things but experiencing what it is in real life helps you
realize the practice. Makes the practice more meaningful, more profound, and more