The Seven Points of
The Venerable Khenchen
Erik Pema Kunsang
Root Text Translated by
© 2004 by Thrangu Rinpoche.
text © 2004 Michele Martin
rights reserved. No part of this book, either text or art, may be reproduced
in any form, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from the
Namo Buddha Seminar or Thrangu Rinpoche.
Published by Namo Buddha Publications
P. O. Box 1083, Crestone, CO 81131
Tel.: (719) 256-5539
Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Publications
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Tel.: (649) 268 0786
Web site. www.greatliberation.org
Library of Congress: BQ 7805.W35
Dewey Decimal: 294.3/444 20
would like to thank the many persons who helped make this book possible.
First, we would like to thank Maruta Stern for translating the teachings
given in Nepal, Erik Kunsang for translating the teaching given in Maine,
and Michele Martin for translating the root text and for rendering extensive
editing assistance. We would also like to thank Gaby Hollmann for transcribing
and helping to edit the tapes of the retreat.
Words are given as they are pronounced, not as they are spelled. The actual
spellings of Tibetan words are given in the Glossary of Tibetan Terms.
We use the convention of B.C.E. (Before Current Era) for what is known as
B.C. and C.E. (Current Era) for A.D.
These teachings were given in Nepal at the Namo Buddha Seminar in January,
1993 in Nepal and in Maine, USA in September of 2001.
This book is dedicated to:
His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa,
Urgen Trinley Dorje. May he live long and prosper and spread the true Dharma
throughout the world.
Table of Contents
to Mind Training 1
I. The Preliminaries
A. The Visualization
for Mind Training Lineage 11
B. The Four
Ordinary Foundations 13
The Difficulty of Finding a Human Birth 13
Death and Impermanence 15
The Inherent Tragedies of Samsara 15
The Infallible Law of Cause and Effect 16
II. The Main Practice
A. Ultimate Bodhichitta
1. Analytical Meditation
Placement Meditation 27
The Preliminary Practice 33
The Main Practice 34
The Post-meditation Practice 37
III. Carrying Practice onto the Path
A. The General
Relying on Relative Bodhichitta 44
Relying on Ultimate Bodhichitta 48
a. Accumulating Merit 50
b. The Confession of Negative Deeds 50
c. Making Offerings to Gods and Demons 51
d. Making Offerings to Dakinis and Protectors 52
IV. Mind Training in Daily Life
Mind Training in this Lifetime 61
Power of Determination 64
Power of Familiarization 66
Power of Virtuous Actions 66
Power of Remorse 68
Power of Aspiration 70
Mind Training at the Time of Death 72
Power of Virtuous Seeds 72
Power of Aspiration 72
Power of Remorse 73
Power of Goodwill 74
Power of Familiarization 74
V. Evaluation of Mind Training
to self as a measure 79
on yourself as a measure 83
of mind as a measure
on Guard 85
VI. Commitments of Mind Training
General Principles 88
VII. Guidelines of Mind Training
to Reject 101
to Adopt 104
The Root Text
of Seven Points of Mind Training 115
Glossary of Tibetan
About the Author
Tibet was non-Buddhist until the eighth century when
its King, Trisong Deutsen, asked Padmasambhava
to come to Tibet to introduce the Buddhist teachings there. It was Padmasambhava, along
with the Indian scholar Shantarakshita, who established Samye Monastery in 779 C.E. To help in this endeavor,
the Minister Thonmi Sambhota was sent to India to develop a
written script for the Tibetans. Thereafter, numerous Tibetans made perilous
journeys to India to bring back the dharma and translate it into Tibetan.
on mind training,
called lojong in Tibetan,
was brought to Tibet by Atisha in the eleventh century. Atisha brought over 100 instructions to Tibet, this particular
text being compiled by one of his students who condensed it into the present
form of seven points.
of Tibet was a combination of the Shravakayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The Shravakayana sometimes called the Hinayana
was practiced in terms of strict personal discipline and the fundamental
meditation of Shamatha and Vipashyana. The Mahayana was taught
in terms of engaging in an extensive study of the emptiness doctrine of
the Middle Way (Skt. Madhyamaka) school and taking the Mahayana vow
to help all living beings reach liberation. Helping all beings was accomplished
through the practice of the six perfections (Skt. paramitas) (generosity,
morality, patience, perseverance, meditative stabilization, and wisdom).
The Vajrayana was achieved through yidam practices and the practice of examining mind
directly, using Dzogchen or Mahamudra meditation.
of texts on the Middle Way concerning emptiness took a minimum of a year
in the monastic college or shedra which, unlike our colleges, involved
an eight to ten hour daily study, six to seven days a week, with only a
few weeks of vacation a year. The study of the Middle Way was achieved by
memorizing the root texts in the morning, then receiving a commentary such
as Thrangu Rinpoche has provided in this book in the late morning, and then
debating the points of the text in the afternoon. Sometimes these texts
were studied not just conceptually, but in conjunction with analytical meditation.
At Rumtek monastery in the Nalanda Shedra, for example, Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche would teach emptiness in the morning,
and in the afternoon would have the students face the outside walls and
go into a deep meditation while he would read passages from the sutras on
method for actually practicing the Mahayana is Atisha’s mind training practice. The purpose of this practice is to overcome
the habitual tendency to center the world around ourselves, and thus decrease
our ego. The belief in “I” and in what we hold as “mine” causes vast amounts
of harm in the world. This habit of acting in terms of “self” and “other”
comes from placing ourselves over others in terms of our nation, our race,
our community and social class, right down to believing that we are somehow
fundamentally better than friends and even family members.
whether he felt anger towards the Chinese for surrounding his camp with
machine guns when he was fleeing Tibet in 1959, opening fire on him and
hundreds of others, Thrangu Rinpoche replied “No,” because the soldiers
were doing what they were supposed to do—shoot at him—and he was doing what
he was supposed to do—run for his life.
this belief in holding our body and our ideas to be extremely important,
we must put others ahead of our own selfish, ego-clinging patterns. The
Seven Points of Mind
Training constitute exactly
such a practice, beginning the second we wake up and then carrying the attitude
on through-out the day as we eat, work, and socialize with others. Practice
ends at night when we examine ourselves to see if we have followed the mind
training principles. Finally, Thrangu Rinpoche has suggested that as we
fall asleep we should do sending and taking practice.
is relevant for modern times because we do not need to go to an isolated
cave or retreat to engage in it; we can engage in it while doing all the
thousands of other things we do every day. This practice has also been condensed
to a few dozen instructions which are easy to memorize, and which are actually
standards for living our daily life. They tell us how to behave in ordinary
circumstances and show us if our ego is increasing or decreasing. In modern
life, we do not usually have the time or patience to memorize long texts,
so this practice is perfectly adopted for the present day.
on the Seven Points of Mind Training were given on two different
occasions: in 1993 with Maruta Stern translating and also in 2001 in Maine
with Erik Kunsang translating. Since Rinpoche emphasized certain points
in one teaching and other points in others, we have combined the two.
Clark Johnson, Ph.D.
An Introduction to Mind Training
Why We Should
Study Mind Training
In the previous years, I taught the general approach
of Buddhist practice and I have also given the instructions on the Shamatha
and Vipashyana meditation according to Mahamudra. These teachings are very
pithy and profound and they are especially aimed at achieving the ultimate
level of reality. There is, however, a way of practice that places more
emphasis on the relative or the conventional level of reality. Some of my
students have asked, “I practice Mahamudra and it is very beneficial, but
every so often strong disturbing emotions well up and the Mahamudra practice
doesn’t seem to stop them. What should I do then?” This is a good question
to ask because at such times there is a way of practice that emphasizes
more the relative truth and this is a teaching known as The Seven Points
of Mind Training, which is very useful because it can help us pacify
This is not just my personal opinion. The Seven Points
have been practiced by the lineage of masters up to the present. They are
explained as the merging of two rivers, the Kadampa and Mahamudra instructions,
into one style of practice. Gampopa fused the mind training instructions
of the Kadampa together with the Mahamudra instructions which he received
from the great master Milarepa. In this way, there has been a line of practitioners
known as “the golden rosary” or “chain of golden links” which has remained
unbroken until the present time. This tradition combines mind training together
with the profound instructions of Mahamudra. I consider this long tradition
as a very important and a very profound approach.
The Story of Atisha
The teachings on The Seven Points of Mind Training
are regarded as contemplations. They were condensed from the words of the
Buddha (Skt. sutras) or the treatises (Skt. shastras) by the
Indian master Atisha.1 When he first embarked in the dharma,
he understood that the attainment of full and complete enlightenment depends
upon forming both relative and ultimate bodhichitta. Since he wanted to
find out which is the way to make sure that the true bodhichitta dawns within
individuals, he fervently prayed to the deity Tara. He had several visions
of her; in one vision Tara made the prediction that Atisha should set out
to meet three important masters to receive the transmission of how to be
a true bodhisattva and develop the bodhichitta attitude. These three masters
were Jampey Naljor, Dharma Rakshita,2 and Jowo Serlingpa, the
Guru from Serling. Of these three, Dharma Rakshita had an incredible life
story and exemplified the bodhisattva ideal perfectly. It is said that he
even gave away parts of his own flesh to someone who was needy. Atisha’s
other guru was called Jampey Naljor meaning “the yogi of loving-kindness,”
because he had that quality of bodhichitta. But the most important of these
three was Jowo Serlingpa.
Atisha was born in the present district of Bengal
but he went to Nalanda University to study. While studying at Nalanda he
heard about Serlingpa. Serling is the Tibetan name for the island of Sumatra
and his name means “the master from Sumatra.” In those days the Buddhadharma
had spread to Indonesia and there were a great number of ordained monks
studying with Serlingpa. He was so well-known that his fame had spread all
the way to Nalanda in Northern India. When Atisha heard about Jowo Serlingpa,
he made up his mind to go and visit. In those days this was a very difficult
journey to undertake. Atisha almost died on the way because of violent storms,
but whenever obstacles arose, he made fervent prayers to his chief deity
Tara and always practiced loving-kindness and compassion. He somehow arrived
and was accepted by Serlingpa, who told him, “Yes, bodhichitta is the most
important practice and you must practice mind training. But don’t think
you can do it in just a few days. It takes a long time to perfect this practice.
You should stay here until you have completed this training.” So Atisha
stayed with Serlingpa for twelve years and at the end of that time he had
perfected his practice of mind training and returned to India.
Atisha became a great teacher at Nalanda University
in Northern India and finally went to Tibet. In the eighth century C.E.
Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita had gone to Tibet and established very
pure Buddhist teachings. It had been a perfect time to establish Buddhism
in Tibet, and the dharma flourished. In the following century, Tibet fell
under the influence of King Langdarma who almost obliterated the Buddhist
teachings, the lineage of precepts, and its institutions.
Following Langdarma’s assassination in 808 C.E.,
many teachers emerged and some taught their own dharma by, for example,
mixing Buddhist practices with black magic. In one of the districts in western
Tibet, there was a king called Yeshe Ö (“wisdom light”), who wanted to determine
what the true dharma was and what distortions of the Buddhist teachings
were so he invited genuine Buddhist teachers to come to Tibet. After him,
his successor Jangchub Ö, (“the light of enlightenment”), had the same intention,
and he also invited Buddhist teachers to Tibet.
King Yeshe Ö sent numerous translators to India in
order to achieve this aim and many of them died on the way. But a few who
succeeded in reaching Atisha gave him the king’s request. Atisha replied,
“It is not a matter of personal feelings of going or not going. I will make
supplications to my yidam deity and will wait for the reply.” So, he made
many supplications to Tara, asking, “Will it be worthwhile for me to go
to Tibet?” Tara appeared to him and said, “If you go to Tibet, it will insure
that the Buddhadharma again becomes reestablished in that country, but it
will also shorten your own life by 10 years.” Atisha replied, “If I live
ten years less, it doesn’t matter because what concerns me the most is that
the Buddhadharma help living beings. That’s what my life is meant for. So,
I will go.” When Atisha arrived in Tibet, he started from the very beginning
by teaching about refuge, bodhichitta, and mind training to separate the
true teachings from the distortions. Atisha went to Tibet in 1044 C.E. and
remained there until the end of his life.
Atisha founded the Kadampa lineage and when he passed
on, he left behind three outstanding disciples, the main one being Dromtonpa
Gyalwai Jungnae. In general, the Kadampa teachings were divided into three
sections. One is the Kadampa philosophical texts, which were held by the
Riwo Gendunpa or the Gelugpa tradition. Another is the Kadampa secret oral
instructions which were held by Dakpo Lhaje (Gampopa) of the Kagyu tradition.
The final one is the key instructions of the sixteen spheres which are practiced
by everyone. Of these three, we practice the oral instructions which have
passed from Gampopa down to this present time.
Gampopa, prior to meeting Milarepa, had followed
the Kadampa teachings and received instructions from that lineage. When
he was about to meet Milarepa, Milarepa told his disciples, “Today there
will come a true teacher from the Kadampa tradition. Whoever escorts him
into my presence will never be reborn into the three lower realms.” Milarepa
understood Gampopa’s value from the very start. Also, when Gampopa was leaving
after having received all the teachings on Mahamudra, the Six Yogas of Naropa,
and so forth, Milarepa escorted him to Garjeling in Gampo where Gampopa
began to practice. At this time Milarepa told him that he had had a special
dream: from his side a vulture flew forth and landed on the Lhachi Mountain
Peak and became surrounded by numerous golden geese, each of which was surrounded
by 500 more geese. When they all flew on high, the whole area turned a golden
color. Milarepa said, “Even though I am a follower of the yogi tradition,
an eminent disciple of mine will fuse the Kadampa and Mahamudra lineage.”
on mind training have been articulated in various ways. There is one set
of teachings called Mind Training in Eight Verses and another called
Mind Training like a Peacock Overcoming Poison. There are many other
instructions like these. The one that is most popular is known as The
Seven Points of Mind Training, which is what we will actually practice
after having received instructions. The Seven Points of Mind Training
was written by a master called Chekawa Yeshe Dorje,3 who went
through many difficulties to receive these teachings.
vow constitutes a major part
of the Mahayana path. One of
the main ways to accomplish this vow is through the practice of mind
training. This mind training,
or lojong in Tibetan, that we are studying is composed of seven precepts
whose purpose is to develop a feeling of love, compassion, and bodhichitta for all living beings. Usually, we tend to think
of ourselves as really important. If we have any kind of suffering, we think
that it is unbearable and that nobody else suffers as we do. We want to
have happiness for ourselves and do not really consider that others feel
the same. But the foundation for love, compassion, and bodhichitta is to
think that others are equal to us and that we are able to exchange ourselves
for them. Actually to do this we have to rid ourselves of this notion that
only we are important, that only our suffering is unbearable, and that our
desire for joy is of paramount importance. How do we train our mind to do
this? The first step is to realize: “If I feel that I am important and that
my suffering is unbearable, then other beings must have the same attitude.
When they suffer, they too must feel that this suffering is “unbearable.”
This is the meaning of training the mind.
We may ask
how Mahamudra meditation and
mind training are related. There are two kinds of truths, conventional
and ultimate. Mahamudra is a very high level teaching which
concerns the ultimate truth. But sometimes we are unable to realize that
ultimate meaning, and because of this, various things happen. Sometimes
our meditation goes very well, but at other times our diligence decreases,
our pride increases, and our meditation doesn’t work the way it should.
During these down times, the instructions of mind training are very good.
Often people come to me and say: “I really want to practice dharma.
I really want to study. I want to meditate but it seems I am very lazy and
cannot do it.” For times like this, it is very helpful to contemplate again
and again the instructions of mind training. In fact, if we can do this
over and over, then the diligence which has decreased will again increase,
as will faith. This is what the mind training precepts are for: the times
when these obstacles, called “inner obstacles of the mind,” occur. When
this happens, contemplate these thoughts over and over again. When diligence
is decreasing and pride and jealousy are increasing, all of the mind instructions
help. Once we have contemplated them repeatedly, then we can again go back
to Mahamudra practice.
formulated about a hundred different mind
training instructions. In Advice from a Spiritual Friend it states that Geshe Chekawa,
who inherited the teachings from a disciple of one of Atisha’s disciples,
put these instructions into the form of the seven points of mind training.
part of the mind training
is a presentation of the preliminaries, which are the bases for dharma practice.
In this text, the preliminaries are divided into two parts: the contemplation
at the beginning of the preliminaries, i.e., what we must visualize and
think of when we start, and then the actual explanation of the preliminaries.
Question: You talked about the relationship between this
practice and The Wheel of Sharp Weapons.
Rinpoche: This text and The Wheel of Sharp Weapons
are basically the same instructions, but are a little different in the meditation
instructions. Both are very powerful, as the title suggests, really forceful
in getting rid of negativities.
Question: Do the inner obstacles arise because of past bad
karma? Could inner obstacles be purified through purification practice?
Rinpoche: Inner obstacles do not come from previous karma.
What comes from previous karma are such things as physical suffering and
being born in poverty. Inner obstacles, which are various negative conceptual
thoughts, come >from previous negative habits of thinking. What does
purify inner obstacles is, for instance, contemplation on the four thoughts
which turn the mind, because
inner obstacles are very, very old habits. Doing the four contemplations
will gradually change the negative habits of mind and that will clear away
the inner obstacles.
Question: When anything happens, negative or positive, to
what extent does this depend on karma? For instance, if I am in a train
accident, it is my karma, or could it also be the bad repair of the train?
Or if something positive happens, like I find money and am happy, is that
due simply to the fact that somebody lost this money?
Rinpoche: Not everything is karma. There are two things to
consider: your previous karma and the immediate circumstances. Things like
our physical suffering, or whether we are wealthy or impoverished, depend
upon previous karma. Other things, like our state of mind,
are more dependent upon circumstances than upon karma. For instance, if
we have good Dharma friends with us, then it might be that our mind
is in a good place for practicing and we are quite happy most of the time,
whereas when we are around people who are not good for us, then our state
of mind will not be good either, so we will be quick to become angry. That
is called “the circumstance.” It functions more like barche, which
could sometimes be an accident and sometimes a misfortune of some kind.
It is based more upon immediate circumstances than upon karma. An airplane
accident is karma, the karma of all the victims coming together at one time.
It was their karma that they had all gathered together in that airplane.
Another example: a man in India wants to get on the bus but doesn’t have
one rupee, so he can’t get on. The bus crashes and everybody dies. It was
his karma not to get on that bus, based upon the fact that he didn’t have
that one rupee. That was his karma.
Question: It is very difficult to distinguish between circumstances
and karma. For instance, if a brick drops on my head or my lama passes away,
is it my karma or is it also his karma to pass away?
Rinpoche: If a rock falls on your head, it is karma. If it
just falls from nowhere and you didn’t know about it beforehand, it is karma.
However, if you pick up that rock and think, “I must build something with
it,” then it is not karma. With your lama, one cannot tell whether it is
karma or not. It might be, but he may have had a reason to pass into nirvana
at that time, in which case it is not karma. Did he die because of your
karma? No, it is not your karma. Now you don’t have a lama because he has
finished teaching you, so it will be up to you whether you practice or not.
That’s your karma. Because the lama has passed away, he is finished. All
the Kagyu lamas have passed away. All lamas die, all living beings die;
there is nobody who won’t die.
Question: An aspect of Buddhist practice that has been getting
more attention in the West these days is social activism in which you bring
your practice out into the community to make a positive change. There has
been a growing interest in the socially active aspects of going from your
meditation seat into the community and bringing about positive change. Some
of the instructions of mind training could be interpreted as a sort of withdrawal from
social activism, so that others are not given the benefit and opportunity
Rinpoche: If everybody would practice these mind
training instructions, it would really be good for everyone,
including the community in general. For instance, it is beneficial for oneself,
and if that person over there is doing it, then it is beneficial both for
that person and everybody around. Mind training is very good for individuals
Eight Freedoms and Ten Riches
The Eight Freedoms (Tib. dal wa gye)
first four freedoms involve the human realm.
Not holding wrong views
Not being born in a primitive border land
Not being born in an age without a Buddha present
Not having all the physical faculties complete, such as being deaf or mute
next four freedoms involve the non-human realms where attaining enlightenment
is not very possible.
Not being born in the hell realm
Not being born a hungry ghost
Not being born an animal
Not being born a long living god
The Ten Riches or endowments
(Tib. jor wa
ten conditions make it conducive to practice.
Taking human birth
Being born in a Buddhist place
Having intact senses
Being free from extreme negative karma
Having faith in the Dharma
A Buddha has appeared
The Buddha has given teachings
The Buddha's teachings continue to exist
9. There are people still following the Buddha teachings
Having compassionate feelings for others
The Practice of the Preliminaries
I. THE PRELIMINARIES
to the Great Compassionate One.
First, train in the preliminaries.
lojong practice with a visualization and a prayer.
A. The Visualization for the Mind Training Lineage
practice of the Vajrayana we
usually meditate, visualizing ourselves in the form of a deity or yidam.
In mind training practice we just see ourselves in our ordinary
form, but on the crown of our head we visualize our root guru
who is the source of all our blessings.
First, we visualize on the crown of our head a lotus flower which is untouched
by any of the faults of samsara; on top of that we visualize a moon disc,
and on top of that we visualize our root guru with a smiling face.
We visualize our root guru either in his or her actual form or in the form
of Gampopa or Atisha,
whomever we are most comfortable with and in whom we can generate the most
faith. It is very important to visualize him or her with a friendly, smiling
face and a resplendent body. The lama has great love and compassion for
us, so the lama’s face is seen with a beautiful and magnificent smile. To
create great merit, we visualize the lama’s body as being very brilliant
and resplendent. We think of the lama as having great loving-kindness and compassion for all living beings and wishing
that they all be free >from suffering. This compassion and love is not
limited to particular individuals, but includes all living beings. In this
way, the lama’s mind abides naturally
in the sphere of reality (Skt. dharmadhatu).
Because it is also important to think of the lineage of lamas that came
before our root guru, we think that the root guru embodies all the lamas
of the lineage as well. There are three basic ways to visualize the root
and lineage lamas: one is to visualize the root guru with all the lineage
lamas stacked above him; another is known as “the great gathering,” in which
we visualize the root guru with all the lineage lamas surrounding him like
a great crowd; a third way, called “the precious way in which all are subsumed
into one,” is to visualize the root guru as the essence of all the lineage
lamas who are subsumed into him or her.
While visualizing the lamas, we keep in mind all the enlightened qualities of kindness and compassion
possessed by our root guru. While doing so, we supplicate our lama. Sometimes
we say prayers to the lineage lamas, asking for blessings
from our lama. We pray that we can achieve the kind of loving-kindness for all living beings and the compassionate wish
for all of them to be free from suffering which are held by our root guru.
We pray that these qualities of the lama are born in us as well. Then with
great faith and devotion to our lama, we say this prayer:
I prostrate to the Great Compassionate One
Whose form is the compassion of the Buddha and his children.
You are the incomparable lord of
dharma with whom any relationship is meaningful.
My root guru, you embody the life-breath
of this lineage.
I pray to you from the depths of my heart.
Bless me with the full development of love, compassion
And the ability to dismiss and dispel (all obstacles).
prayer we then visualize the lama coming down through the top of our head
and entering a tent in our heart where he resides. This causes faith and
devotion to increase. It is very important at the beginning of any meditative
session to generate great faith and devotion in the lama and to ask for
blessings in this way.
the blessings and generated great faith and devotion, we sit
with our body lengthened and simply pay attention to the passing in and
out of the breath. We don’t try
to regulate the breath, but breathe naturally, staying aware of the breath
going out and coming back in. We count the in-breath and out-breath as one.
We do not count out loud but are just aware. On our rosary we pay attention
to the passing of the breath
in and out for twenty-one counts.
do this very carefully because this is said to be the vessel for Shamatha
practice. We should just be very mindful of the breath
going in and out and not consciously think, “Now it is going out; now it
is coming in,” or the other way around. Very carefully and mindfully we
pay attention to counting to twenty-one and then starting at one again.
It is very important to make a container for Shamatha practice.
the visualization for the preliminaries. Now comes the actual explanation
of the preliminaries, which begins with the contemplation of the four thoughts
that turn the mind, also known
as the four ordinary foundations.
B. The Four Ordinary Foundations
1. The Difficulty of Finding a Human Birth
are primarily concerned with the instructions on how to reflect upon impermanence.
In addition to reflection on impermanence, the great siddhas of India added
three additional reflections: the preciousness of the human body comprising
the eight freedoms and ten riches, the consequences of karmic actions, and
the negative quality of cyclic existence or samsara. First, we all have
this incredibly valuable human body which is much better than an animal
body. Of course, an animal can behave nicely and have a kind attitude, but
can an animal receive teachings and reflect upon them? Can an animal practice
deep meditation or samadhi? Can an animal liberate itself from the causes
of samsara? There is no way for an animal to receive teachings as a human
can. Not only do human beings have the ability to listen and to understand
the teachings, but they also practice intelligently and understand what
they are doing. When you think about it, this is of immense value. The preciousness
of the human existence is not just a belief, it is really true. If we reflect
upon this, then there is an actual reason to rejoice in the immense wealth
of having a precious human body.
5 said that one does not really need to read about the four ordinary
foundations in a book; one only needs to look around and see that impermanence
is obvious everywhere. We have the precious human body now, but it does
not last. Everything is impermanent. It is clear that we have reached a
very special circumstance now in having this precious human life. We can
see that this precious human birth is a great opportunity. But if we do
not use it, then it is a complete waste. What a shame to squander this opportunity!
We can see that a human birth is very precious and that it is important
to use it as such. So the first contemplation is on the precious human existence
and all its possibilities.
2. Death and Impermanence
contemplation is on death and impermanence. If we sit and think about death
and impermanence, we are bound to become a little sad. Most people think
it is not a good idea to sit around and think about something which will
upset us. But actually, it is a good idea because if we do not think now
about death and impermanence, one day they will definitely arrive anyway
and then we will not be prepared. Not knowing what to do and what will come
next, we will experience great suffering, whereas if we start thinking about
impermanence now, while we still have time to find skillful means to deal
with it, then later we will not be caught unaware. Even though in the short
term the contemplation of death and impermanence might cause discomfort,
in the long term it will actually save us from greater suffering.
3. The Infallible Law of Cause and Effect (Karma)
contemplation is on the infallibility of karma, which is cause and effect.
The word “karma” is often understood as a fate that is impossible to change
or alter. But that is not the Buddhist concept of karma. The Buddha taught
that one can do something about one’s karma. Happiness and suffering are
created by karmic actions; they are the results of actions; and these actions
are the result of our choice of what we do. We cannot change the results
immediately, but we can still change the new causes that we create with
All living beings want to avoid suffering, but we
need to understand that negative karmic actions cause suffering, so if we
try our best to avoid creating new negative actions, then their effect which
is suffering will diminish. Living beings also want happiness, but we need
to understand that wholesome or positive karmic actions bring on happiness.
In this way, karma is not out of reach, because we can do something about
how karma will ripen for us later on. As practitioners we should definitely
take it upon ourselves to avoid what is unwholesome and to do what is meaningful
So in this
contemplation we contemplate that if we do virtuous actions, then the effect
or result is happiness; if we create a cause of non-virtue by performing
a negative act, then the result will be suffering. So there is a way of
overcoming suffering in life, and this is by creating virtuous causes which
can only arise by pursuing a path of dharma.
If we have
doubts about these four contemplations, it is said that it is very helpful
to recite prayers like The Seven-Branch Prayer
in which we take refuge, generate bodhichitta, confess, dedicate the merit, and so on. When doubts
arise, this is a very important and beneficial practice.
4. The Inherent Tragedies of Samsara
contemplation is on the inherent tragedies of samsara. The inherent nature
of samsara is that there is always something wrong and this is true for
everyone. All living beings suffer in one way or another. But it doesn’t
have to be that way. We don’t have to continue suffering. We can overcome
not only the causes of suffering, but we can overcome the entire environment
of suffering, which is samsara, by making use of the instructions of mind
training on the relative level and the instructions of Mahamudra on the
ultimate level. Reflecting upon the negative quality of samsaric existence
inspires us to want to overcome suffering and to attain liberation and be
free; it makes us want to put more energy into mind training and Mahamudra
Milarepa said, “I do not study what is written with
black ink.” Rather, Milarepa studied everything as it actually is. We can
also just look around and see how things are. All living beings are born,
grow up, age, become sick, and pass away. We can also observe the consequences
of actions and what is painful in all different ways. All this is observable
if we pay attention. But we can also see what is truly valuable: a precious
human body, which can lead us to embrace a spiritual path by understanding
what it means to cultivate spiritual qualities and to practice. Such a person
is very precious. When we acknowledge that we have this preciousness, we
can rejoice in that. Also, we will be inspired not to leave it at that,
but to put it to use with a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and perseverance.
That is a special way of studying the dharma through understanding how things
From time to time a student will say to me, “I like
the dharma and am interested in practicing, but I feel that it is difficult
for me to practice. I cannot really get into it. What should I do?” I suggest,
“Spend some time reflecting upon the four thoughts that change the mind—the
precious human body, impermanence, karma, and suffering.” This is not like
training in Shamatha and Vipashyana, but more a reflection, thinking about
how things are: Are they permanent or impermanent? We spend time working
with these four topics in our mind. These will cause inspiration, in which
case we feel that it is not difficult to practice. This is why the first
of the seven points of mind training is the preliminaries, or the foundation,
for any and all practices that follow. If we have that foundation of having
reflected on the four thoughts that turn the mind, we are then able to proceed
with every practice that comes afterwards.
train in the teachings of the seven points of mind training, we still have
some problems. Sometimes these problems can take the form of happiness,
success, and good times and sometimes the form of difficulties, physical
and mental pain, and misfortune. Success becomes an obstacle when we are
affluent, have lots of satisfaction, and everything goes well. This causes
a tendency to forget the dharma practice because everything is fine; we
just go along and get caught up in it, forgetting our usual practice. That’s
a problem and, therefore it is called “the obstacle of happiness.” The other
obstacle comes when we experience misfortune, failure, or physical and mental
pain. We could also forget dharma practice then because we are too caught
up in being depressed, and so forth. As a matter of fact, we can use both
situations for mind training and in that way become more even-minded so
that we are neither depressed during difficulties nor carried-away by success.
In this way mind training lifts us during difficulties and grounds us during
Question: You said we should visualize our root guru either
in his or her own form, or as Gampopa or Atisha. I always visualize him either in his own form
or in the form of Vajradhara. Should we visualize him in this case as Gampopa
Rinpoche: There are several ways of visualizing one’s root
guru. For instance, it is fine to visualize him as Vajradhara
because Vajradhara, having all the qualities of the Buddha, is stainless.
One can also visualize one’s own root guru as he or she is if one has complete
faith and confidence in him or her. But sometimes because we are very familiar
with our lama, we can lack complete faith and devotion and, therefore, tend
to see faults in our root guru. When this happens, we can visualize the
root guru in the form of Gampopa
or Atisha, because these teachings of mind
training come from Atisha, who passed them down to Gampopa.
These individuals lived far in the past, so never having met them we cannot
possibly see a fault in them.
Question: As a student new to Buddhism I have not developed
a strong connection to a root guru. How does one practice in that case?
Rinpoche: Well, the one for whom you feel faith, devotion,
and respect no matter which individual, should be your object of refuge.
That is whom you visualize.
Question: You taught that it is necessary to supplicate the
guru with deep devotion, as well as to follow his instructions. When the
root guru dies, do we continue this practice to create openness and further
devotion, further commitment, or is there some actual living quality of
the root guru? Is there a Buddha-field that the root guru is part of, a sort of energy
field, or does the practice just help us follow the instructions more clearly,
Rinpoche: Whether your lama has passed away or is still living
doesn’t really make a lot of difference because the point is the strength
of your faith, devotion, and prayers. For instance, Milarepa
often prayed to Marpa and many of his spiritual songs start with prayers
to Marpa, though at the time Marpa had already passed away. It is said that
if one has enough faith, sacred relics
(Tib. ringsel) will issue even from
a dog’s tooth! This refers to the story of an old woman in Tibet whose son
was a great trader and was always going to India. The mother was very old,
and when her son was to go to India she said, “Oh son, you are always going
off to India. It is such a wonderful place. The Buddha was there, as well
as many great saints. It would mean a lot to me if you would bring me back
some kind of relic from this holy land.” The son went off to India, had
a lot of work to do, and totally forgot the relic. When he returned, his
mother asked, “What did you bring me?” The son said, “Oh. I’m so sorry.
I forgot all about it.” The next time he went she said again, “Please don’t
forget. Please bring me something from India.” Again he got really busy
and forgot it, leaving her very disappointed. Then came the third trip.
Once more the son had so much to do that he forgot. The fourth time the
mother said, “If you forget again, I will know that you don’t really love
me at all; in fact, if you don’t bring me something this time, I am going
to die in front of you.” He went and again became very busy and forgot.
But this time, just before reaching home, he remembered and thought, “Oh
no! I completely forgot. What am I going to do? My poor old mother! She
is going to die in front of me.” He was really in despair and looked around
frantically for something to give her. Seeing the dried up skull of a dog
lying there, he approached it, thinking: “I just have to get her something.
She is going to die in front of me if I don’t. I can’t let this happen.”
So he took a tooth out of the dog’s skull, wrapped it very nicely, and went
home saying, “Look mother! You are really lucky today. You are very fortunate.
I have brought you a tooth of the Buddha himself.” His mother was so pleased
that she put it on the shrine, made many offerings, and prayed to it. One
day ringsel came from that tooth. Now ringsel can be produced from the tooth
of the Buddha, but not from a dog’s tooth. So it was her great faith and
devotion and the power of mind which made that happen.
II. THE MAIN PRACTICE
part of the mind training
practice is concerned with bodhichitta.
Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word which literally means “awakened mind.” It
refers to the desire to help all living beings achieve complete happiness.
Living beings, by the way, refers to all beings who have a mind, so this
includes animals as well as beings we cannot see, such as hungry ghosts,
jealous gods, and beings in the god and hell realms. Generally, there are
two kinds of bodhichitta: relative bodhichitta
and ultimate bodhichitta. Usually,
it is taught that ultimate bodhichitta is more important than relative bodhichitta. However, because we are beginners in the mind
training teachings, it is taught that relative bodhichitta
is most important, while ultimate bodhichitta is only briefly mentioned.
The practice begins with a brief teaching on ultimate bodhichitta. We begin
with visualizing the lama as explained above, reciting prayers to him or
her that we might receive blessings,
and counting the breath twenty-one
times so that we become proper receptacles for training in ultimate bodhichitta.
A. Ultimate bodhichitta
We begin with ultimate bodhichitta followed by relative
bodhichitta. The reason Chekawa Yeshe Dorje decided on this order is because
relative bodhichitta is the desire that forms the noble intention to proceed
with developing ultimate bodhichitta. The dualistic mind is not very stable
and to work with something that is so unstable is very difficult to do.
Wouldn’t it be better to stabilize the mind in real meditation or samadhi?
To train in absolute bodhichitta first and later train in relative bodhichitta
based on the stability achieved? Then relative bodhichitta will be more
lucid, clear, and steady so that progress is more likely. That is the reason
why absolute bodhichitta is discussed first.
speaking, there are two types of meditative training: analytical meditation
and resting meditation. We usually begin with analytical meditation, which
is inquiring about the nature of phenomena, beginning with external phenomena
as explained in The Heart Sutra with the statement, “No eye, no ear,
no nose, no tongue” and so forth.” When we examine the nature of phenomena,
we fail to find any phenomenon which truly exists, so everything is regarded
as dream-like. This then leads to the first instruction:
1. Analytical Meditation
2. Regard all phenomena as dreams.
The word “dharma,” here translated as “phenomenon,”
is used in many different contexts. Sometimes it refers to teachings and
sometimes to a particular practice or a specific quality that we try to
cultivate in our practice. But in this particular context, the word “dharma”
doesn’t mean the teachings, rather it means any perceivable object or entity,
such as an external sight, sound, smell, and so forth. These are not as
they seem: they are visible or perceivable but not truly existing, just
like dreams. Therefore, first understand that all phenomena are dream-like
and then train in regarding them as being so.
feel that it is necessary to spend a lot of time in this teaching discussing
emptiness and whether things are real and concrete or do not exist as real
and solid as they seem. As a matter of fact, they can be taken apart into
smaller and smaller parts until they are atoms. However, even the smallest
particles cannot be established to truly exist as something concrete and
real. This can be arrived at through intelligent reasoning from the Middle
Way philosophy. Using Middle Way logic, it is possible to show that all
phenomena are not as real as they seem. This method proceeds by proving
that every view we hold about reality can be disproved. Another approach
is to establish how things are, rather than disproving their reality.
of the emptiness of phenomena can be illustrated with the example of a dream.
Every one of us dreams at night, and while we dream, it seems that there
are objects, sounds, and so forth, which are exactly the same as they are
while we are awake. We see hills, forests, houses, people, and so forth,
during our dreams, but these phenomena are not as they seem. They appear
to us, but they are not solid even though we can hit them, fall off them,
and so on. Is everything we see in our dreams there? No. When we dream of
a house or mountain, there is no real house or mountain in the room. In
other words, while not existing, these phenomena still appear. How is it
possible that something that doesn’t really exist still appears to us? The
answer is that it is like a dream, when we see, hear, feel textures, taste,
smell, and so forth though these things are not really there. How should
we regard the phenomena in our waking state? As empty just as in a dream.
We, therefore, should “Regard all dharmas as dreams.”
we contemplate that all outer phenomena—trees, houses and mountains—are
not real, but resemble appearances in a dream. We also contemplate that the inner phenomenon
of our mind, which perceives
all outer phenomena, is also not real. Rather, our mind is empty of inherent
existence. To engage in the two contemplations
that outer and inner phenomena resemble a dream, we first think that everything
we see in the animate and inanimate world is like the appearances arising
in a dream and that our sensations of these phenomena—smell, taste, touch,
sight, hearing, and feeling—are also like the sensations felt in a dream.
we think that everything we perceive outside of us is not real; it is like
a dream or an illusion. If everything
out there is just a dream or illusion, then these phenomena must come from
the mind. The next thought is,
“Well, is the mind itself real?” To determine if mind is a real, solid entity
or empty just like outer phenomena, we can, employ the Mahamudra or Dzogchen instructions to
look directly at our mind. This practice of looking at mind is explained
in the next instruction:
3. Investigate the nature of unborn awareness.
nakedly at the essential nature of mind, we find that
mind is not established as any “thing” at all. This means that if we look
for the mind, we find it has no color or shape, or any other definable characteristic
which an object does. Since objects have a beginning, we may wonder, “Where
does the mind start? Is there a point of origin for the mind?” Again if
we look, we cannot find a point of origin for the mind. Other than thinking
that it is like the wind moving in the sky, there is nothing to indicate
what it is like. Since there is no place where it begins, it is said that
mind is unborn.
is unborn, we may then ask, “So where is it now?” Examining the present
mind to see whether it is somewhere outside the body, we find that there
is no place where it resides in the objects that we sense or see. It is
not separate from the body, so we ask, “Well, is it inside?” But we cannot
find a particular place where it is located in the body. Since mind does
not have a color or a location, we therefore say that it is by nature empty.
we wonder, “Where does mind stop when thoughts stop? And where do thoughts
go?” Again, there is no place we can find where thoughts end. The mind does
not attach itself to an outer object and stop there. There is no origin
of mind, it does not dwell anywhere, and it does not end anywhere because
it is empty. So the mind is without birth, abiding, and cessation. This
awareness can’t be found. This contemplation of looking for the mind, trying
to find if it has any reality or not, is a very important practice to do
over and over again until we are convinced that the nature of mind is emptiness.
we examine outer phenomena to establish that they are like a dream
; then we look at mind itself
and see that it is without birth, abiding, and cessation. From this we establish
that the inner phenomena of mind are also empty. But this thought that mind
and phenomena are empty is just another thought, so now we must look at
the person who has that thought with the next instruction.
Let us examine what the perceiver is, what we call
“me.” Actually, when we look for it, we cannot find it anywhere; we fail
to find it, and yet at the same time it seems that there is someone. This
lack of finding is here called “unborn,” which means it doesn’t come about
nor does it exist right now; it didn’t arise and it doesn’t abide anywhere
in the present. This is exactly what we need to look into in order to find
that this also does not really exist, which is called “empty of essence”
or “empty of identity.”
Earlier, two different types of meditation were mentioned:
analytic meditation,11 and resting meditation. Analytical meditation
which uses rational thinking, is not the method meant in “investigate the
nature of unborn awareness.” Here, the instruction means to look at unborn
awareness. This is like observing birds, just seeing what they are doing.
Where do they live? How do they get there? How do they fly about? What do
they eat? Inquiry is simply taking a look by observing. In exactly the same
way, we take a look at the mind and ask: Where does it dwell? How does it
behave? What does it look like? What color does it have? What shape does
it have? And where is it? How does it move? How does it stay? And so forth.
This type of inquiry is not intellectual.
From time to time we have the feeling that the mind
is steady and remains calm. Then when we take a close look at it, what is
it really that remains calm now? We fail to find that there is someone or
something that remains. In the same way, sometimes we notice that there
is thinking, and when we look into the identity of what is it that thinks,
we fail to find that there is a thinker, someone or something actually thinking
the thought. This is not some kind of rationalization, but something we
see when we look. This is what is being taught here in the statement: “Investigate
the nature of unborn awareness.” Unborn here is a synonym for absence of
4. Even the antidote is released in its ground.
with the belief that everything is solid and real. Then we develop the belief
that this is incorrect and everything is just emptiness or like a dream.
This second belief, however, developed by the previous instruction, is not
real either. To illustrate this point, Shantideva
gave the following example: If you were dreaming that you had a son and
the son died, you would think, “I had a son and now he is gone.” You might
think that the thought that he is gone is an antidote to the thought that
he existed. But in fact this can’t be correct because none of it is real:
it is all like a dream. So the thought that you had a son was not real,
and the thought that your son had died was also unreal. That is what “the
antidote released in its ground” means. When you begin to believe that everything
is emptiness, then you have to let that thought go, too. You have to look
at the one who is thinking that thought and realize that this one, too,
is not real.
In his commentary
on The Seven Points of Mind Training, called The Great Path of
Awakening, Jamgon Kongtrul said that this teaching is explained as conceptual
meditation because examination of outer objects as having no birth, no abiding,
and no cessation is done through using our intellect.
mentioned, there are two ways of meditation training: the analytical meditation
of a scholar, a pandita, and the resting meditation of a kusulu, a simple
meditator. Analytical meditation of a pandita involves questioning, inquiring,
and quoting the scriptures from masters of the past. To gain some certainty
about how things are, we need to look at external things to see how they
are, and we need to look within to see how our mind is. We even look at
the remedies against the usual belief about outer and inner phenomena. As
we reach some kind of conviction, all we can see is direct experience. Then
comes the next training called “resting meditation of a simple meditator.”
The above instruction concerns analytical meditation, while the next instruction
concerns resting meditation of direct perception.
2. Placement Meditation
5. Rest within the all-basis, the essential nature.
the all-basis, the alaya, mean? We have the eight consciousnesses:12
the five sensory consciousnesses of sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and
body sensation; the sixth mental consciousness, the seventh afflicted consciousness,
and the eighth alaya consciousness. We do not “rest in the consciousnesses”
because the consciousnesses are externally oriented. We don’t rest in the
sixth mental consciousness which is thinking mind, engaged in thoughts of
the past, present, and future. These six consciousnesses are sometimes present
and sometimes not. For example, our eye consciousness will not be present
or functioning when our eyes are closed or it is completely dark. Does this
mean that when the consciousnesses are not present, we die or turn into
a stone? No, because there is an ongoing sense of the present and a lucid
knowing quality of mind. This knowing, or awareness, is the eighth alaya
or all-ground consciousness. The alaya consciousness has the quality of
being always present and the quality of knowing. The quality of knowing
or luminosity (Tib. selwa) is always there whether we are awake or
asleep or dreaming; it is a conscious quality that is never interrupted.
I once had
an operation in which they gave me an anesthetic. I experienced the sensory
consciousnesses all being interrupted and there was no physical sensation
and at the same time there was this lucid quality which was not interrupted.
I think this was the eighth consciousness and this is what we need to rest
two aspects to the eighth alaya consciousness: the consciousness aspect
called the kunzhi namshe in Tibetan, and the wisdom aspect called
the kunzhi yeshe. What is the difference between these two aspects?
Even though the wisdom quality of the eighth consciousness is ongoing and
unimpeded, we may not be aware of the emptiness of phenomena. Not realizing
this characteristic of phenomena is called the consciousness or namshe
aspect of the alaya. This ignorance forms the foundation for the other consciousnesses.
However, with meditative training we see that even though there is no entity
there, (i.e., when we look for this consciousness, nothing is there), present
at the same time is this conscious wakefulness, the wisdom aspect of the
eighth consciousness. Our task as a practitioner is not only to rest in
the nature of this alaya, but also to be aware of its nature.
use the word alaya, we usually mean this eighth consciousness. But
in this particular instruction, to rest in the nature of alaya points to
our basic Buddha nature (Skt. tathagatagarbha). This instruction
means looking without any conceptualization at the nature of mind.
This Buddha nature is complete simplicity; it is the union of emptiness
and luminosity. It is luminosity because it has the characteristic of wisdom,
and yet it is not an object or thing. The nature of this luminous clarity
is emptiness. So this is the practical application of the meditation: just
to look at the nature of mind, at that unity of clarity and emptiness.
In the meditation
on ultimate bodhichitta, we look at the nature of mind
and find there is nothing at all that we have to think about or fabricate.
We do not have to think that something that exists does not exist; nor that
something that does not exist, does exist. We just look at the nature of
have finished the looking, we can recite the Seven Branch Prayer as we did
in the preliminaries. After practicing meditation on relative bodhichitta
(the analytical meditation) followed by meditation on ultimate bodhichitta
(resting meditation ), we must
dedicate the merit of this practice.
6. In post-meditation, regard all beings as illusions.
The first four instructions already given in this
chapter explain how we should engage in the analytical meditation training
of a pandita as well as doing resting meditation of a simple meditator,
a kusulu. Once we understand this, we persevere in this training and meditate
more and more. But, a conflict can arise. A practitioner might think, “If
I meditate, then I can’t work and do my job. And if I do my job, I can’t
practice.” This is why there is this fifth instruction distinguishing between
the meditation period and the post-meditation period. During the meditation
session, we train in analytical meditation or we simply do resting meditation.
During the post-meditation stage we are involved in activities, such as
going to work, having conversations, and walking about. How do we deal with
these activities? When things go well and there are no problems, we become
very excited and happy, and when things do not go well and there are problems,
we worry a lot and wonder, “Oh no! What is going to happen? This is terrible,”
and so forth. Rather than reacting to these events we should train in the
understanding we have from mind training, namely, that whatever we perceive
is like a magical illusion. So the reaction of being excited about success
or depressed about failure will diminish when our external world is seen
as a magical illusion.
This completes the teaching on absolute bodhichitta.
In summary: The first instruction was about external phenomena, “Regard
all phenomena as dreams.” The second instruction is about inner phenomena,
the perceiving mind, “Investigate the nature of unborn awareness.” The third
instruction is, “Even the antidote is released in its ground.” Then we come
to the resting meditation of the kusulu, “Rest within the all-basis, the
essential nature.” Finally, the instruction is on how to practice during
daily activities, “In post-meditation, regard all beings as illusions.”
In this way, absolute bodhichitta is practiced using these five instructions.
B. Relative Bodhichitta
In the teachings
on relative bodhichitta, there are three parts: the preliminary part, the
main practice, and the post-meditation practice.
In The Seven Points of Mind Training we are
in the section on the main practice, which has two parts: absolute and relative
bodhichitta. In these teachings the relative aspect is emphasized more strongly,
because relative bodhichitta is of immediate importance for the practitioner.
It is what occurs in daily life. We train in meditation to realize the emptiness
of external phenomena and the emptiness of internal phenomena. However,
in mind training, we act as if there is a personal identity and as if other
persons are also real. So relative bodhichitta is making believe that there
is a self and others.
We begin with a special instruction from the Master
of Sumatra, Jowo Serlingpa. He said that when you plant the seed of a flower
in a very nice and clean ground, the seed will grow very poorly. If, however,
you plant it in moist and dirty ground enriched with manure, the seed will
grow well. In the same way, just as a seed grows in dirty soil, to realize
emptiness and develop an altruistic motivation, the bodhisattva will grow
and progress in confused and messy situations.
When it comes to promoting the bodhisattva’s frame
of mind, we need to consider two attitudes most people hold: one is called
“goodwill” and the other, “ill-will.” It seems most people alternate between
these two. “Goodwill” means that out of a good heart one wants to help and
further what is valuable, beneficial, and helpful. But sometimes we have
ill-will and want to hurt and harm others. When it comes to engendering
the bodhisattva attitude, it seems like goodwill is more helpful than ill-will,
so as a practitioner we are advised to cultivate the attitude of goodwill
as much as possible and to diminish and reduce our ill-will. Why? Because
when we become used to an attitude, sooner or later it manifests; sooner
or later it expresses itself not only in words but in actions as well. When
we consider what beings actually need, it is not ill-will at all; they need
goodwill. For someone aspiring to be a bodhisattva, it is suggested that
they cultivate and maintain goodwill and try to diminish ill-will.
Another reason is that goodwill helps both others
and oneself. If one expresses goodwill, it immediately helps others and
indirectly, sooner or later, there is feedback that helps oneself. So it
also helps oneself to have a benevolent frame of mind to help others. Ill-will,
on the other hand, immediately hurts others and indirectly hurts oneself
Now, where do ill-will and goodwill spring from?
They spring >from either regarding ourselves as being most important
or from regarding others as most important. If we look at the feeling, “I
am important!” It can become the basis for many problems. If one regards
oneself as being more important than others, sooner or later one will express
this in ways that are harmful to others. But regarding others as important
will sooner or later be beneficial for others and for oneself, too. Therefore
we should try our best to develop the attitude of thinking of others as
more important than oneself.
This is where mind training enters because one’s
basic attitude can be remedied with mind training. Why? Because predominant
habits of considering oneself as more important than others can be changed:
we can train in developing the attitude of wanting to help others and in
diminishing the idea that we are more important than others. This is very
beneficial. We can train in that further and further so that finally there
is not much self-importance left in our own mind but we have the remaining
attitude of wanting to benefit others. This is the real basis for mind training.
The main practice of mind training is forming the
bodhisattva attitude which eliminates the tendency to treasure oneself as
more important. Absolute bodhichitta obliterates the basis of self-cherishing
because it is seen that the ego and personal identity are manifesting and
bodhichitta is the solution. Therefore, it is said that training in absolute
bodhichitta completely eliminates self-cherishing. But for a beginner it
may not be so easy to be successful doing this. Therefore, it is more practical
to put more emphasis on relative bodhichitta: we take the bodhisattva vow
and commence in training to be a bodhisattva, especially by studying such
wonderful and beautiful texts like Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s
Way. This text explains the benefits of developing bodhichitta, how
to do so, the different kinds of training involved, and the negative consequences
of ignoring the importance of becoming a bodhisattva.
Points of Mind Training may not be as detailed as Guide to a Bodhisattva’s
Way, but for a beginner it is more applicable because the Guide to
a Bodhisattva’s Way does not clearly mention how to begin practice,
whereas the Seven Points does. In that way, The Seven Points of
Mind Training is more practical and useful for a beginner.
1. The Preliminary Practice
practice of relative bodhichitta is to meditate on love and compassion for all living
beings. Since this is difficult to do, we begin by generating love and compassion
towards our mother. The way to start is to visualize our mother in front
times, when we look at the world, we like to think that in general everything
is improving—that people’s conditions are improving, that wealth is increasing,
and that things are getting better. But sometimes it is very obvious that
something is wrong. One of the ways we know this is true is that in these
times people do not like their mothers. Even though we love our mother,
we sometimes become angry with her. If we think about it though, our mother
has been incredibly kind by giving us our life and then sacrificing a great
deal for us.
think about our mother, we should think about how much our mother did for
us. We think, “When I was first born, I did not know how to walk. I did
not know how to speak. I did not know how to put food into my own mouth,
or how to go to the bathroom. I did not know anything. And my mother was
the one who took care of me. In fact, I would not have turned into a person
at all had she not taken care of and helped me. She put food into my mouth,
she took me to the bathroom, and she put on my clothes. When I got a little
bigger she would say, ‘No, don’t do that, it is dangerous.’ She taught me
everything that is necessary to become a proper human being.”
sometimes our mother became angry at us and she may have even spanked us.
But again, we couldn’t understand at that time why that happened. It wasn’t
because she didn’t love us or she had some kind of malice towards us. It
was necessary because she was teaching us. If she hit us, she did not hit
us because it was of some benefit to her; if she scolded us, she didn’t
do so because she liked it. It was all for our benefit and was the result
of a great kindness to us.
practice we first feel compassion for our mother with the thought, “May
she be freed from all suffering,” and we show love for her with the thought,
“May she have complete happiness.” This text on mind training gives us the oral instruction to start with our
mother and gradually extend compassion to all the rest of the beings in
the world. We extend this compassion (May all living beings be freed from
all suffering.) and this universal love (May they possess all happiness.)
to the point where we regard all beings impartially.
the preliminary. Now we come to the actual meditation, which is the sending
and taking meditation (Tib. tonglen).
2. The Main Practice of Relative Bodhichitta
Alternately practice sending and taking; these two should ride the breath.
The first instruction of practicing relative bodhichitta
is that sending and taking should be practiced alternately. This is an instruction
we actually follow. The practice shows why we should give-up self-cherishing
and regard others as more important. It does not use reasoning or deduction;
rather, it is very simple advice on how to begin. We begin by imagining
other living beings in front of us, many or just a few. We can imagine people
in pain, people we know who are sick, people in distress or suffering. We
imagine that we send these people happiness and the causes of happiness
as well. For this to happen, we imagine that we give them whatever goodness
we can think of, and we imagine that we receive whatever suffering and causes
of suffering, all the distress and negative emotions they experience. We
imagine that by being freed from suffering and its causes, they experience
happiness and well-being. We practice this again and again and thus become
more and more used to taking away the suffering of others and giving them
our own well-being and causes of happiness. By training in this sending
and taking practice, the regarding of oneself as more important than others
diminishes and regarding others as more important becomes stronger and stronger.
Moreover, the traditional instructions help us to
become accustomed to a more positive way of thinking. It is not just our
imagination, but we join it with our breath. When we exhale we imagine (or
visualize) that our merit, our well-being, our physical and mental happiness,
whatever fortune we may possess is sent out to other living beings in the
form of our white exhaled breath and it touches the others who become filled
with whatever goodness we have sent them. We imagine they are freed of any
burden they carry and are happy and well. As we inhale, we imagine that
anything troubling them (their negative emotions, their suffering, their
problems, and so forth) leaves them in the form of dark light and we inhale
it, taking it upon ourselves. Immediately, they are freed from the burden
and we imagine them at ease, happy and calm. We practice that again and
We train in this meditation, called tonglen
in Tibetan, to diminish our self-cherishing attitude and become more caring
for others. In doing this practice we may worry, “If I give away all my
merit, happiness, and well-being to others, I will not have anything for
myself. Not only that, I may get sick and suffer from taking on the suffering
of others.” When things don’t go so well for us, we may then think, “Well,
this is because I practiced giving and taking too much. I was too concerned
about taking on the suffering of others and now these terrible things are
happening to me.” But there is no reason to worry because we do not really
exchange the karma we haven’t created, with karma created by others. Karma
cannot be transferred or eliminated by giving and taking practice, so we
don’t need to worry at all.
We may have
another fear: “Well, what is the use of practicing giving and taking if
it doesn’t help alleviate the suffering of others or bring them happiness?”
The answer to this is that we do not do this practice to bring about an
immediate result in the other person. The purpose of this practice is to
diminish our clinging to self-cherishing and to increase the attitude of
benevolence and loving-kindness. Sending and taking training does accomplish
that. Because the more we think of giving away our own happiness, well-being,
and merit, the more we diminish the concern for “only me.” The more we train
in giving happiness to other living beings and taking on their suffering,
the more the virtuous qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, bodhichitta,
will grow within us. When these qualities have become stronger and stronger,
we will then be able to directly help others substantially. So sending and
taking helps ourselves, because the more we are involved in benevolent activities
for others, the fewer problems we create for ourselves. Also it helps us
as well as others. Maybe it doesn’t help immediately, but ultimately it
becomes the cause for helping others. It is possible that sending and taking
can help others immediately, however, it is not guaranteed.
3. The Post-meditation Practice
8. Three objects, three poisons, and three roots of virtue.
The training in giving and taking should be practiced
alternately with the breath and should be done during the meditation session.
Therefore it belongs to the meditation practice of relative bodhichitta.
But there are also instructions to use sending and taking during post-meditation.
The instructions say, “Three objects, three poisons, and three seeds of
virtue.” When we move about in life, we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch
an object that is pleasant, we become attracted to it and, as a result,
form an attachment to this object in our mind. When, we notice that this
has happened, our next thought should be: “May this represent the attachment
of all living beings, and may all living beings be free of this attachment
that is formed and overcome in my mind. May all beings experience happiness
that arises from being free >from this attachment.”
We form this attitude and formulate the noble wish
that all living beings be free. On the other side of the coin, we may see
something unpleasant or hear something annoying and become irritated or
angry because of an unpleasant encounter. If we notice that anger or aggression
is forming in our mind much like an attachment, we should then make the
wish: “May this represent the anger and aversion of all living beings, and
may all living beings be free of anger and aversion, and may all beings
experience happiness that arises from being totally free from anger and
We may also be neither attracted nor repelled by
something; our mind remains blank and we are absent-minded. If we notice
this indifference, we should then make the wish that the blindness or stupidity
of all living beings melts into our mind and that they are then free from
their ignorance. We formulate our wish: “May this be the end of ignorance
of all living beings and may they all have the happiness that arises from
In this practice, “the three objects” refers to those
objects that provoke our emotion of attachment, aversion, or indifference,
while “the three poisons” are the emotions of attachment, aversion or aggression,
and stupidity. Then we imagine that all living beings dissolve into the
emotions we have as they arise; and peace and virtue are formed with the
wish, “May all living beings be free.” In this way, the three poisons are
transformed into the three roots of virtue. This is the practice of relative
bodhichitta that we do during post-meditation.
9. In all your activities, train with these words.
In addition to relative bodhichitta in our post-meditation
experience, the text says, “In all activities, train in these instructions.”
We put our words into action so that when we meet others who are better
off than we, who are happy, who do good actions and so forth, rather than
being jealous or competitive, we make the wish: “May they have happiness
and may they progress in what they do. May their activities increase.”
When we meet others who don’t do anything special,
we make our wish: “May they progress, may they give rise to the noble attitude
of bodhichitta. May they have happiness.”
When we see others who are suffering, we make the
wish: “May they be free from suffering. May they be quickly relieved of
the causes of suffering and experience peace.”
When we meet people who are actively involved in
creating causes for suffering by hurting others, we again make the wish,
“May they quickly stop doing so and attain happiness.”
We do not only pray when we meet such people but
also when we hear about them; even when we just think about them, we make
our wishing prayer.
These instructions do not mean that we only make
good wishes because there are situations in which we can actually help others
to increase their well-being, to remove their distress and suffering. If
we are able to do so, then there is a chance to do something to help other
beings, so why hold back? We can do it on the spot. It may be impossible
to help them but that doesn’t mean we can’t give rise to the attitude, “I
might not be able to alleviate the suffering of this person in this moment,
but when the chance comes later on, may I be able to do so.” We can hope
and formulate our wish like that, praying to free others >from suffering
and to provide them with happiness.
10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.
one more instruction for daily activities in the section on the post-meditation
of relative bodhichitta. It has to do with not being able to help someone
in great need and distress. We may not be able to help them, but we can
still help someone who is not that terribly distressed and troubled. We
can begin by feeling for a friend in trouble and need; we can begin with
someone close to us. Having begun, we begin to focus and gradually become
capable of helping others afflicted with suffering until finally we are
actually capable of benefiting all living beings.
This practice of sending and taking should be done
both as actual sending and taking meditation on the breath, and also as part of our normal daily activities.
For instance, any time that we have a feeling of strong attachment, we should
think, “May all beings be free of this feeling of attachment.” If we are
suffering or sick, or something terrible happens causing mental or physical
pain, we should think, “May all living beings be free of such pain.” If
we become angry at someone, we should think, “All living beings feel this.
May they be free of such hatred and anger.” In the same way if we do something
very good, then we should think, “May all living beings enjoy this virtue.”
If something very nice happens to us and we are very happy, we should again
think, “May all living beings experience this happiness.”
what we are doing, we can practice this mind training. It is very beneficial to actually say the words,
“May all living beings have happiness; may all living beings be freed of
Question: In the United States there are a number of mothers
who whip their children for reasons that are not beneficial. When I use
the instructions to teach the practice of compassion in abused families,
it is very difficult for me to talk about that section because people who
have been greatly injured say to me, “That doesn’t make sense and it is
Rinpoche: First of all, the meditation doesn’t necessarily
have to be on the mother. The point is to meditate on somebody who has given
as much loving-kindness and help. Whoever that is, it is okay to start with
them. Nonetheless, it is usually a mistake to think that one’s mother is
not kind. Think back to the first year of life when you were completely
helpless. If it weren’t for your mother, you would certainly have died.
When the child grows and develops some kind of consciousness of self, then
it can begin to have trouble with the mother. The mother might say, “You
must eat now,” and you answer, “No, I don’t want to.” Then trouble starts.
The child does not want to do what the mother says and gets angry, and the
situation starts from there. It seems to me that still there is something
wrong with the idea that the mother is not kind because there is something
very natural that comes from a mother with her baby: “This is my child.”
There is a natural protection and tendency to want to protect that child.
have a very good motivation and really want to help. People are very unhappy
and have much mental suffering, so psychologists and psychotherapists try
to fix that suffering, to make it better. This is all very wonderful. But
sometimes there can be a problem when they try to find out what causes the
suffering or what the source of the pain is. The patient answers, “Well,
my mother did this to me.” The therapist answers, “That’s it! That’s the
source of your pain. It comes from your mother. She’s the one.” I think
that this is not necessarily true.
Question: I have a question about taking and sending. When
you are taking in the negativities of others, what do you do with them?
Do you dissolve them into emptiness or into the ground?
Rinpoche: In this teaching it is said that you just imagine
that all the non-virtue and suffering dissolve into you, and nothing more
is said about it. But there is another way to do it, a special way in which
you visualize yourself as Chenrezig with a white letter HRI in your heart. That HRI
is very hot and has the nature of flames. When you visualize taking on all
the suffering and non-virtue of all beings, you visualize it as a black
cloud that comes to you and goes in through your nose and down into your
heart center, where the HRI burns it up. So all the suffering and non-virtue
of all beings is burned up. When you are sending forth all your virtue and
well-being, you visualize that it goes out in a white mist that spreads
to all living beings, and they become very pure and endowed with great happiness.
Question: Let’s say a thief comes into the shrine-room and hears
the statement, ‘Regard all phenomena as dreams,’ then goes down to Brunswick
and starts stealing money from all the stores. When the policeman arrests
him, he says, “There is no theft, there is no thief, nothing was stolen.
These are all dreams.” But there is a problem if the policeman is not a
dharma practitioner. So what should the policeman do or say?
Rinpoche: Here is what the policeman should say: “Yes, everything
is illusory and unreal, like a dream, but there is still human feeling,
even though it is dream-like. Therefore, there is also the dream-like experience
of being imprisoned.”
Question: If we are frequently faced with a wrathful person
who really wants to destroy us, what is the most effective method of coping
with this problem? Is it better to do Tara practice,
taking and sending practice, or some kind of wrathful protector practice ?
Rinpoche: Whether you do Tara or protector practice,
the result should be the same. The most beneficial practice is the taking
and sending practice and the practice of patience. Sometimes
it is not possible to have this much patience, and if that is the case,
then the best thing to do is to stay away from the person. If there is such
a strong case of animosity, when that person sees you, the animosity will
just increase and nothing good can come of it. At that point the best thing
is just to stay away from that person or situation and the sooner it is
forgotten, the better the situation will be.
Transforming Unfavorable Circumstances
III. HOW TO CARRY THE PRACTICE ONTO THE PATH
A. The General Practice
When the world is filled with negativity, transform adverse conditions into
the path of awakening.
described the meditation of wishing all of our good fortune, happiness,
and virtue to be given to other living beings, and taking all the evil,
suffering, and causes of suffering of all living beings onto ourselves.
This is the main meditation, but in our daily lives many things often happen
unexpectedly, such as a surprise illness. Then the question becomes, “What
do we do about these things? How do we meditate in situations where we are
happy and situations when we are suffering?” This is the meaning of “transform
adverse conditions into the path of awakening.”
it seems that the world is filled with negativity and that living beings
have much suffering and many accidents befalling them. We must learn to
transform these negative circumstances into the path to enlightenment. This
can be done in two ways: through the practice of relying on relative bodhichitta
and through the practice of relying on ultimate bodhichitta. The instruction
describing relative bodhichitta
is described in the following section.
1. Relying on Relative bodhichitta
two aspects to relative bodhichitta when we are practicing using troubles
and difficulties as a way to bring us along the path to enlightenment. The
first has to do with diminishing self-cherishing and the second has to do
with increasing one’s sense of valuing others. The first aspect of diminishing
self-cherishing can occur in situations when we go through difficulties
and hard times. The instruction is:
Drive all blame into one.
bad befalls us—maybe we become sick or injured or have great mental suffering,
because people gossip about or insult us—we always tend to put the blame
on others by thinking, “I didn’t do anything, yet this person has really
hurt me,” or “This has happened to me. Why has it happened? It is not my
fault.” We always put the blame on other people or outside circumstances.
But in mind training we should do exactly the opposite. We should not
think that the blame lies outside ourselves, but that the fault is ours.
We should think the fault comes from holding ourselves to be precious, from
believing, “I am important.” We believe that the self is important when
it really isn’t.
Self-cherishing has to do with the sense of self,
“This is me.” What the “I” refers to is not so certain. People may use “I”
to refer to the body, other times to the mind. It is not that clear. In
terms of the knowledge that realizes egolessness, there is a certain way
to question the validity of the belief that there exists such an entity
called “I.” But that is not in the scope of relative mind training; we just
take it as a given that if there is this belief, then it is the problem
and not the object of that belief. Selfishness is anchored in the belief
“I exist.” It is the main cause of our unhappiness. Thinking, “I am important.
I am special,” is the basis for so many problems, for so much selfishness
and negative emotions. Sometimes anger arises, sometimes hatred or sometimes
attachment and desire, sometimes pride and conceit; sometimes it is jealousy,
sometimes stinginess, or sometimes close-mindedness. These emotions are
allowed to take a foot-hold because they are nourished by the belief in
“me,” by regarding “me” as so special. As a matter of fact, sometimes the
sense of “I” is regarded as the single and most important entity in the
entire world: “I am incredibly important and valuable!” That is what is
called “self-cherishing,” which is regarded as what is to be eliminated
in the practice of mind training. We may think that self-cherishing is some
intrinsic component of our being, but it isn’t. It is just a thought that
pops up, and that is why it can be eliminated.
that we have at present are all brought on by self-cherishing. Whatever
problems we have, the amount of suffering they cause is directly related
to how strongly we regard ourselves as being important. Even the more general
and large-scale suffering of samsara—birth, old age, sickness, and death—is
ultimately caused by self-cherishing, by ego-clinging. This is why whenever
we go through difficulties, we can rightfully blame self-cherishing as the
main cause of the problem.
I want to
give an example about how it is that taking the self to be real is the true
enemy. The story in question is about the great teacher Patrul Rinpoche,
who lived in Kham. One time he was traveling with a servant to Central Tibet.
They had a lot of money with them. The reason they were carrying so much
money was that they were going to Central Tibet to offer butter lamps, make
statues, and do many other virtuous things. The two were traveling alone
across the Chang Thang Desert which was notorious for its thieves. At night
they couldn’t sleep because they feared someone was going to steal the money,
so they suffered terribly. And in the daytime they were constantly looking
around, ahead and behind, wondering, “Are the thieves going to come? Where
will they come from?” It was extremely difficult.
Patrul Rinpoche thought, “I’m really not having a good time. It
is so hard. What is the actual cause of my having such a bad time on this
trip?” Then he realized, “It’s the money. If I didn’t have all this money,
I could rest at night and travel comfortably. I wouldn’t have constantly
to look over my shoulder to see if a thief is coming.” While he was thinking
this, his servant was walking ahead looking out for the thieves and robbers
while Patrul Rinpoche was behind. “Well, it’s really simple,” he thought.
“This money is the source of the trouble and I am going to get rid of it.”
With that, he threw the money into the river, thinking, “It’s gone now.
That’s great. Now I’m really happy.” So he went along while his servant
was still watching out for the thieves and robbers. Finally he said to his
servant, “We don’t have to worry anymore. The thieves and robbers are in
the water.” The servant said, “What do you mean ‘the thieves and robbers
are in the water’? They are everywhere.” Patrul Rinpoche said, “No, I threw
the money in the water. That was the real source of our problem.” This illustrates
that the problem was an internal attachment to the money, rather than the
is we are so attached to a solid self which is, in fact, really empty. Shantideva
said, “Whatever harm, fear and suffering there are in the world come from
taking the self to be real. This is such a great demon. What will it do
to me, this clinging to a self?” The answer is that the demon has to be
tamed. The demon of believing the ego to be real has to be subdued.
13. Be grateful to everyone and everything.
“Be grateful to everyone” means to try to understand
that others give us kindness. First of all, this is most easy to practice
when people are nice and we have a pleasant and enjoyable time with them.
Then we think, “I had a good time with so-and-so.” It is very easy to think
others are very nice when they are kind to us. But when others are nasty,
hurt our feelings, or disappoint us, we complain, “This is so frustrating,
so disheartening, disappointing. I am so tired, both mentally and physically,
of spending time with so-and-so.” This shows quite clearly that we are not
capable of doing mind training at that time and instead just blame the other
person. On the other hand, there is a way to deal with this, namely by using
the opportunity when people are unpleasant to cultivate patience, tolerance,
and compassion. We actually see that they provide us with the opportunities
to practice and cultivate positive qualities, and we should be very thankful
to them for this.
In other words, when people hurt or harm us or throw
obstacles our way, we should regard these as an opportunity for practice.
It is an opportunity to practice because it offers the chance to use our
patience, our willingness to carry through and develop our compassion. These
frustrating people are actually kind by providing us the chance to progress
on the path. Acknowledging and appreciating this kindness is a way of making
use of the difficulties on the path to enlightenment, which comes under
the heading of contemplating the great kindness of everyone in order to
increase cherishing others.
a way to reduce self-cherishing and a way to increase cherishing others
in order to bring difficulties into the path of enlightenment. These two
aspects fall under the training of relative bodhichitta.
another relevant quote from Shantideva‘s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
the road is covered with rocks and thorns,
can either pave the entire road with leather,
you can take a piece of leather
place it on the soles of your own feet.
shows that the world is filled with suffering which you cannot stop by trying
to pacify all the different negative forces and obstacles. What you can
do is protect yourself. This protection rids you of clinging to a self.
That is the same as covering the soles of your feet with leather, rather
than paving the whole world with it.
quote Shantideva says, “All the suffering and bad things that happen
in the world come from this clinging to a self.” The Buddha taught that
one should not consider oneself to be more precious than others. Rather,
we should consider others more important and more precious. From beginningless
time, throughout samsara, we have considered ourselves to be more important
and more precious than others, and this has brought about all our obstacles
and suffering. Therefore, this attitude is what we must eliminate. The whole
problem is based upon holding others to be more important than ourselves.
So the citations
from Shantideva concerned reliance on relative bodhichitta.
The next lines deal with relying on ultimate bodhichitta.
2. Relying on Ultimate Bodhichitta
on ultimate bodhichitta is to realize emptiness, and to understand that
all suffering and negativity actually lack reality. It is like being carried
away by water or burnt by fire in a dream; the suffering in that dream is not real. It is
the realization of the emptiness of phenomena, the realization that life
is a dream that leads to realization of ultimate bodhichitta.
The instruction for this is:
14. Seeing delusive appearances as the four kayas is the
unexcelled protection emptiness gives.
The way to see confusion as the four kayas (four bodies or four dimensions) is to regard any
difficulties and troubles we may experience as a dream, a magical illusion,
because the true nature of external phenomena has no inherent nature:14
e xternal phenomena of samsara are like
phenomena in a dream: they do not exist and the realization of this absence
of true existence is the dharmakaya. While phenomena do not exist ultimately,
on a relative level, due to mere dependent origination, they arise like
appearances in a dream and this is the nirmanakaya. These two qualities
of being non-existent and yet perceived or experienced are an indivisible
unity which is the sambhogakaya. The unity of all three kayas or dimensions
is the svabhavikakaya. In this way, we can train in treating confusion as
the four kayas, which is how they actually are. This method is called “the
unexcelled protection of shunyata or emptiness.”
If we have
developed some stability in our meditation we may be capable of dealing
with problems and mishaps by regarding everything as an illusion, the nature
of the four kayas. Otherwise, we will have to train in the relative level
of dealing with difficulties by bringing them into the path of enlightenment,
diminishing self-cherishing and increasing cherishing others.
to this instruction, there is the following practice called “the special
application of bringing difficulties into the path of enlightenment.”
15. The best method entails four practices.
the four practices the best method means that these four are methods for
eliminating all pain and suffering for oneself, and bringing happiness and
benefit to all beings. this is possible through the following four methods.
a. Accumulating Merit
practice is accumulating merit. We can ask, “Is it really possible to rid
ourselves of suffering and create circumstances which are conducive to the
practice of dharma?” The answer is that this is possible because all things
have a cause, and the cause of happiness is virtuous activity. To create
this cause of virtue we must first accumulate merit.
Where does the fortune of good health, prosperity,
and enjoyment come from? They result from the ripening of wholesome karmic
actions in the past, primarily that of a noble intention, but also noble
physical and verbal behavior, showing respect to noble objects, being generous
to those in need, and so forth. All these are the accumulation of merit.
When we train in creating merit, we insure that positive circumstances will
follow and negative circumstances will subside.
b. Confession of Negative Deeds
merit, we also need to be freed of our previous negative karma. To do this
we must engage in confessing our negative deeds, which is done through the
Situations have repercussions called “the ripening
of karma.” One of the ways to reduce the ripening of karma is through regret
for having created the causes that bring on suffering. This is one of the
main special applications: to confess or acknowledge negative actions. The
Tibetan word is shagpa and has the sense of chipping away, e.g.,
when chopping down a tree one starts bit by bit until nothing keeps it from
standing any more. In the same way, regretting and acknowledging are the
opposite of justifying our self and our rigid actions. As long as we hold
on to our entrenched attitude, it is impossible to change. On the other
hand, if we loosen up our attitude, feeling regret for what we have done,
then we are able to let go of that pattern, slowly changing our ways. This
is why confessing for having done something negative is the second of the
if we have the attitude that killing is good, or that it is our job and
we earn a lot, every time we have that thought, it solidifies and becomes
more and more difficult to change. On the other hand, if we start thinking,
“Maybe it is not so good to kill again and again. This will not help me
in the long-run. It will make things very difficult and also hurts others.”
That kind of attitude will weaken the severity of karma. It will also make
the ripening of the negative karma of killing less strong.
c. Making an Offering to Gods and Demons
encounter obstacles, whether from other persons or non-humans, we should
practice the three methods. If someone dislikes
us and harms us, we usually retaliate. But when we think about whether anger
will solve the problem, we will realize that it will not. If someone is
angry at us and does something hateful, and we get angry and want to retaliate
by saying mean words and fighting, the only result is that this person will
become increasingly angry and cause more harm. Whether the obstacle is caused
by a human or a non-human force, it is clear that by reacting with anger
or revenge the situation will only get worse. Therefore, the correct thing
to do if someone harms us is to be patient and compassionate. In these circumstances
the other person’s reaction can only decrease in strength, whereas if we
react in the same manner as they, the conflict will only escalate. Our sole
option, then, is to meditate on patience and compassion.
request a Vajrayana initiation,
a torma is usually offered at
the beginning to all demons and obstructing forces, because it is possible
that they may try to create some kind of obstacle to our receiving the initiation
and doing the practice. This torma is a symbol for what we have just discussed:
the fact that if harm or an obstruction occurs, it cannot be pacified by
anger, retaliation, or resentment towards the person causing the harm. As
a token of this truth, a torma is offered before the initiation to all the
non-humans present as a symbol
of peace and friendship, an offering of bodhichitta so that no obstacles arise. Whether we are dealing
with a human or non-human, or someone who really dislikes us, the only way
to address the situation is to defuse it by sending forth love and compassion.
d. Making Offerings to Dakinis and Protectors
and dharma protectors are friends
to us and will not create obstacles. Offering torma
to the protectors is like offering help to a friend and receiving help in
return. In the same way, if you make offerings to the protectors, they will
help you. So whether we are dealing with dakinis and protectors, people
or friends, if you help them, they will reciprocate.
A beginner may have difficulties understanding what
dharma protectors are. Usually we talk about our protectors as the Three
Jewels, the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha. But in the Vajrayana, in
addition to the Three Jewels, there are the three roots: the gurus, the
yidams, and the dharma protectors. The lama is called “the root of blessings.”
We might ask, “How could there be anyone more exceptional than the Buddha?
The Buddha is the most eminent source of refuge and object of supplication
for blessings.” But it has been over 2,000 years since Buddha Shakyamuni
lived on earth, so we may feel a gap between the Buddha and us that we cannot
bridge. It is still possible, however, to receive blessings because there
is a lama or guru who carries the Buddha’s blessings and we can connect
with them in the present. When we receive the teachings, we receive the
blessings of the Buddha: it is the same as having received them from the
Buddha personally. This is the reason why the lama is called “the root of
The second type of dharma protector is the meditational
deities or yidams in Tibetan. It is said that there are 84,000 ways to practice
the dharma to achieve the goal of enlightenment. We can’t possibly practice
all of these and so in the Vajrayana path, the dharma practice is condensed
into the form of a yidam. By practicing the yidam meditation thoroughly,
we can achieve enlightenment and so the yidam is called “the root of accomplishment.”
root is called “the dharma protectors, the root of activities.” Usually
the sangha performs the duty of dispelling hindrances and of providing good
circumstances for people to progress on the path. But the sangha is not
only incarnated as human beings. The noble sangha constitutes the Buddhas
and bodhisattvas on a high level of realization, endowed with the blessings,
the abilities, the great qualities, wisdom, and so forth. It is not confined
to human beings. Dharma protectors are also able to manifest in many other
forms and also in the Buddha-fields. When they are requested to act, they
will engage in activities that are beneficial for the dharma. There is a
tradition for calling upon the protectors of the dharma to carry out these
activities. They are summoned, visualized in male and female forms corresponding
to whether they represent wisdom (female) or skillful means (male). They
may take on other aspects, too. When we talk about the three main qualities
of enlightenment as wisdom, compassion, and power, then it is capability
that manifests in the wrathful form, compassion in the peaceful form, and
so forth. Sometimes protectors are painted in thangkas and sometimes
they are part of our visualization. But when making a request or supplicating
them to act on behalf of the dharma and beings, we accompany this request
with a torma offering. This is said to be beneficial for dispelling obstacles
and for providing conducive circumstances for dharma practice. That is why
the fourth point from among the special applications is giving torma offerings
to the protectors of the dharma.
a practice called chö (often spelled “chod”), the practice of severance or cutting through,
which is sometimes done in this context. It is done to eliminate the clinging
to a self which we consider precious. When we cling to this self, we are
mostly attached to our body. To cut that attachment, the chö practice includes
the visualization of offering one’s own body to others. In this visualization,
we invite all the gods and demons to come before us. We imagine a multitude
of them—some in peaceful form, some in wrathful form—appearing in front
of us, and we offer up our own body to them. Sometimes we visualize that
we actually cut our body into pieces and offer it to them to enjoy. Other
times, we can visualize that we flay our own skin off and then offer our
body to them.
two methods of offering our body in chö practice: one is called “the white
offering” and the other “the red offering.” In the white offering, we imagine
that we cut up our body, which is transformed into wonderful and delicious
food with the five flavors and aromas. We then offer this transformed substance
to the guests. In the red offering we imagine our body in its present state.
We visualize that we cut it up and offer it as it is with the gods and demons.
for employing these four methods when we encounter negative circumstances,
such as illness or hostile attacks, is to eliminate the belief that we are
more important than others. To summarize, the four methods are accumulating
merit, making confessions, offering tormas to gods and demons, and offering
tormas to the dakinis and dharma protectors.
16. Whatever you meet, instantly join it with meditation.
The previous practices were mainly those engaged
in during the meditation session. The next instruction discusses the post-meditation
state when we bring unexpected circumstances to the path. Whatever we encounter
should be brought into the path, in other words, made use of. For instance,
when we have a pleasant moment that we enjoy, we make the aspiration, “May
every being experience happiness.” This is the way we help promote loving-kindness
and compassion. Then there may be an unpleasant moment or situation in our
life and at that time we remind ourselves that the unpleasantness of this
difficulty has to do with self-cherishing. We make the aspiration, “May
self-cherishing diminish in me and in all living beings.” In this way both
pleasure and pain are brought into the path.
Question: “Rinpoche, how should one apologize and be sorry for
misdeeds? Also, how long should one keep feeling sorry for misdeeds?
Rinpoche: There is something called “the four remedies of powers,”
one of which is called “the power of remorse.” This is to actually acknowledge
that what is not good is not good, and not just pay lip-service. When we
really understand that something that was nasty was nasty – and not in an
artificial, fabricated way—then that is the limit to which one should carry
Question: Rinpoche, I would like some examples under what is referred
to as “contemplate the great kindness of everyone.” For example, a project
needs to be completed and people are not keeping to their responsibility,
so they are not following through on what they are supposed to be doing.
Rinpoche: In the Buddhist sense of training in compassion and patience,
the main component is that we need to be intelligent about how we are compassionate
and how much we are willing to tolerate. So, we shouldn’t let people get
away with some-thing that is stupid just because it is difficult for us
to confront them. That is not what is meant here. For example, if your house
is burning down, you shouldn’t just sit down and say, “Oh, this is difficult.
I should be patient.” We are allowed to say something. If it is true, then
you tell the truth.
Question: When we talk about self-cherishing, how do we exhibit
patience and forbearance? What would be the behavior? How would we demonstrate
Rinpoche: The example I gave of the house burning is quite a good
example, I think, because it is pretty useless to be patient in the sense
of not doing anything. You can bear it while doing something about it intelligently,
in other words, you use water to put out the flames.
But in the case of people acting in a way that is
inappropriate, you don’t have to tolerate their not doing what they are
supposed to—that is not what is meant by patience here. Because if you say
something like, “Hey, you aren’t doing something you are supposed to,” they
might change and do a good job. Patience has to do with your not being angry
with them for not doing what they are supposed to. Anger doesn’t necessarily
help them, but telling them may help.
Question: Rinpoche, my question goes back to yesterday about sending
and receiving practice. Would you describe further how to begin and end
that practice in general?
Rinpoche: It is perfectly all right just to send and take
in an instant, without much preparation and ceremony. It is also all right
to use the traditional method of first beginning with aspiration prayers,
guru-yoga, visualizing Chenrezig and so forth. It is also all right to do
it in the traditional way. But if one doesn’t use a lot of elaborate details,
it is also fine.
Question: It seems there are situations in which it is better
to say something to others and to stop being angry than to absorb the anger.
Is this teaching sometimes more a mental practice than a practice actually
Rinpoche: It is okay if you can say something. What I was
referring to is your mental attitude, that you should not say something
angry back. If you get angry in return, things will become worse.
Question: It is said that anger is the worst of the disturbing
emotions. I never really understood why anger is worse than
passion or stupidity.
Rinpoche: The other disturbing emotions,
such as passion, pride, and jealousy do cause harm, but it is more gradual.
For instance, if you have attachment and only think about pleasure and good
things, it will eventually become a cause of suffering. The same thing with
pride, thinking, “I am so great!” Right then and there nothing terrible
is happening, but eventually it will become the cause of suffering. However,
anger and hatred are immediate. The worst part is the actual harm done to
self and others. Anger and hatred that do not cause outright actions such
as hitting and harming others, but cause the thought, “I would like to destroy
him or her,” constitutes what we call a “black mind.”
This black mind is more immediately negative than other disturbing emotions and is therefore said to be the worst.
Question: I’ve heard that some illnesses can be caused by
external forces. In that case, is it true that these forces can be pacified?
What is torma and how can a lay
person like me actually offer a torma?
Rinpoche: Some illnesses can be caused by demonic forces;
it is also said that nagas can cause sickness. A good way to pacify them is
by offering torma, but the chö practice visualization is best. Visualize the demon
and imagine that you are offering your body. It may appear to be superstitious,
but it really helps.
Question: What if a friend has a serious illness? What can
be done actually to help a person with cancer or some other life-threatening
Rinpoche: Sometimes one can help, but there are cases where
nothing can help, just as doctors cannot cure everything. Sometimes mantras,
medicine, and visualizations can help; sometimes they don’t at all.
you can never tell. My father passed away when I was twenty-five years old,
and shortly afterwards my mother became very ill. She looked really very
bad and her tongue swelled up terribly; it truly seemed that she was going
to die. It was terrible for me to think that my mother would die so shortly
after my father. We tried many things, many doctors, much medicine, and
nothing worked. Then somebody suggested that a particular practitioner who
was really good with mantras should come and help. So we called this man,
but I didn’t think anything would happen because he didn’t look like he
had any realization or meditation experience. All he did was say a few mantras
and blow on my mother. But the next day she started getting better.
Mind Training in Daily Life
IV. Practicing Mind Training in Daily Life
point deals with the presentation of practice in our life, and is divided
into two parts. The first part is how we practice mind training
during our lifetime, and the second is how we practice mind training at
the time of death.
A. Practicing Mind Training in Our Lifetime
Practice the five powers, the condensed heart instructions.
Practicing the five powers has to do with the teachings
that the Buddha gave after appearing in this world. In order to alleviate
the suffering in the three lower realms and the entire wheel of samsara,
the Buddha gave many teachings and instructions which cover ways that we
can use in the way we behave and in our meditation practice. They are quite
extensive and include the Vinaya precepts, which define conduct, and the
Prajnaparamita, which are the teachings on transcendent knowledge. These
teachings are part of the sutra teachings. The Buddha also gave the tantric
teachings, of which there are many detailed sections, including kriya tantra,
charya tantra, yoga tantra, anuttarayoga tantra, and many others as well.
The words of the Buddha were recorded in India and
transmitted through the centuries, until they were translated into Tibetan,
for the most part by eighth century Tibetan translators. So we can say that
for the most part they still exist today, with a few small exceptions. The
main part of all the teachings the Buddha gave are collected in the Kangyur,
or the precious collection of the Buddha’s words, consisting of around 103
huge volumes of teachings.
All these scriptures on the teachings of the Buddha
are laid out according to the sutra or the tantric perspective. How does
one know this? >From the explanations given in the treatises by the great
learned and accomplished masters of India and Tibet. The Indian masters,
mahasiddhas, and other great teachers of the past condensed the teachings
into treatises, explaining the meaning clearly and showing how to go about
practicing them. This was done in Tibet as well by practitioners who applied
the teachings, reached a level of perfection themselves, and then wrote
from their personal experiences of what proved itself to be valid. All these
teachings are called “the treatises,” and were collected in the Tengyur.
They still exist today. But when it comes to personal practice, there is
what is called men-nag in Tibetan, which means “heart or pith instructions.”
They are also called oral instructions and they are used for personal practice.
Men-nag means something that is precise, applicable, effective and
can be used immediately, therefore, the pith instructions are what people
These heart instructions flowed into Tibet from many
sources. Let us take the tradition of the Kagyu Lineage. The Tibetan translator
Marpa journeyed to India and connected with many great masters of those
times: Naropa, Maitripa, and many others, from whom he received the heart
instructions. They prophesied that Marpa would propagate the lineage. He
not only received the instructions but practiced them personally to such
an extent that he also attained realization and accomplishment. He brought
the instructions back to Tibet and passed them on to his disciple Milarepa,
who then passed them on to Gampopa and others. These three masters, Marpa,
Milarepa, and Gampopa, are considered the foremost fathers of the Kagyu
The achievements of Gampopa were predicted in the
King of Samadhi Sutra where the Buddha stated that in the future there
will be someone who will propagate the instructions and make The King
of Meditation flourish, be understood, and realized. Centuries later,
Gampopa united the instructions from the Kadampa Lineage on mind training
with those from Milarepa, who received the teachings of Maitripa and Naropa
through Marpa. So Milarepa not only had the mind training instructions of
the Kadampa, but also the instructions from Naropa, as well as the Mahamudra
teachings, all of which Gampopa had combined in one.
These instructions have been transmitted throughout
the centuries until today. A great master known as Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro
Thaye insured that these oral teachings would not disappear from our world
by writing them all down in a collection. It contains the instructions transmitted
through the Kagyu Lineage and also the eight primary lineages called “The
Eight Chariots of the Practice Lineage.” He compiled them all into a collection
of teachings known as The Treasury of Pith Instructions. In this
collection of teachings, the seven points of mind training were placed at
the front because he considered them very important.
Before Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye compiled his collection
of works, another earlier master took up mind training and spread it widely.
His name was Gyaltse Thogme; he also wrote his own commentary to clarify
the seven points. In his commentaries, we can find very precise and helpful
instructions on how to begin mind training, how to carry on in the middle,
and how to complete it in the end.17
instructions are of many types. Of course, it would be wonderful if you
could practice all of them in a very vast and extensive way, but that is
not always possible. Therefore, the word “condensed” is added here: it means
putting together the most important points so that we are able to use them.
This is the teaching here, “the condensed heart instructions.” What
are they? They are phrased here as “the five powers.”
for the first practice of how to engage in mind training in this life is to train in the five powers,
which are a summary of the essential instructions. We will now discuss these
five powers as they relate to daily life, and then we will discuss these
same five powers in terms of the time of our death.
1. Power of Goodwill
To strengthen this power of goodwill to bring about
more benefit we make a pledge, “I will practice for a certain amount of
time.” For example, when we do the preliminary practices, we say, “I want
to complete these practices 100,000 times each, so I will begin with the
100,000 prostrations.” That strengthens the power of benevolence or goodwill
because we have made up our mind to do so. When going into retreat, we make
up our mind and formulate our resolution, “For this amount of a time, I
will remain in retreat and practice one-pointedly.” That is also very beneficial
as a way of strengthening the power of bringing forth the benefit of goodwill.
Even if we are not able to spend three years in retreat, we can say, “For
this amount of time, I will practice.” Or it could be applied in a different
way “As long as I am alive in this body, I will refrain from doing negative
actions” also has great strength. We may not be able to keep this pledge
during our entire life, but at least we could say, “For this number of years,
I will avoid these negative actions,” or “For this number of months I will
avoid them.” That kind of mental resolve helps strengthen the power of goodwill.
Assume that we are bothered by a specific negative
emotion, for example, the tendency to be angry, competitive, or jealous.
Wanting to improve, we can aim our practice toward progressing in this particular
area. When we wake up in the morning, the emotions have the tendency to
reoccur and we notice this. So that is an opportunity to make up our mind
in the morning: “Today I will work on diminishing this particular negative
emotion (anger, for instance) which is problematic for me. I will try my
go about the day and before going to sleep at night we check, “How well
did I do today? Was I successful or not?” Since we are an ordinary person,
we may have been unsuccessful. Then we say, “Well, I didn’t do so well.
I will try a little more tomorrow.” Again we make the commitment the next
day. In this way, we use the power of goodwill to form the wish to do better.
When we practice the seven points of mind training, the focus of the practice
is to keep away from self-cherishing and trying to increase valuing others
more highly in our lives. That could be the pledge we make in the morning
and the examination we make in the evening, resolving again to do better
the next day.
If we do
not choose a specific negative emotion we take the general vow: “>From
today until I reach enlightenment, I will not be parted from either relative
or ultimate bodhichitta.”
We can also make this vow for a shorter time, even
for a day. This gives power to our practice. For instance, if we are a very
lazy person, we might wake up in the morning, thinking, “Today I really
want to get this work done.” Or if we have strong defilements and disturbing
emotions, we would think, “Today I will
not fall under the power of this.” It is this kind of determination that
is being talked about here. If we make a promise to ourselves, our practice
2. Power of Familiarization
The second power is that of growing familiar. We
may think it is enough to have the first power of forming a good intention,
but something more is necessary. We need to grow familiar with the practice
and this comes about through training, not only during the meditation session
but also during daily activities in post-meditation. We remind ourselves
of the practice and stay alert to our behavior. Through this kind of mindfulness,
we can improve and come to a sense of familiarization and progress. It is
not guaranteed that we become immediately successful, because we may make
mistakes. But that doesn’t mean that we should be disheartened. The strength
of the power of familiarization is that we are willing to continue the practice
and grow. What we set out to do here is to try to overcome the negative
emotions that arise in our state of being by applying the remedies against
them. We also have to increase the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion.
What causes us to progress in this endeavor is the power of growing familiar.
think: “Whatever I do today, whether I am lying down, standing up, eating,
walking around, or talking with friends, I will be extremely mindful not
to let my bodhichitta diminish.”
with this determination in the morning and based upon it, we remain as much
as possible mindful of it all day long. Throughout the day, whatever situation
comes up, we remember not to be parted from bodhichitta.
In this way we become accustomed to this wish to help all others.
3. Power of Virtuous Actions
power is called “the power of virtuous seeds.” It is like planting seeds
to get a crop. This goes along with our training to diminish ego-clinging
and self-cherishing and promote loving-kindness and compassion. Sometimes
more fuel is necessary to help us move along. This fuel is the virtuous
seeds. We do what is good, meaningful and wholesome in our physical actions.
In our words and our attitude, we try our best to do what is good and noble:
being generous to those in need, paying respect to the noble objects, reciting
the sutras and making prayers, chanting aspirations, mantras, and so forth.
Mentally we form the intention and let it settle in a state of equanimity,
which is samadhi. In this way, we create virtuous actions which, in addition
to the former powers, help especially when we dedicate the virtue to diminishing
self-cherishing and promoting loving-kindness and compassion. We make that
intention in the beginning and dedicate the outcome to that specific purpose
in the end.
power, we should always strive to increase our virtuous activities of body,
speech, and mind so that our bodhichitta is enriched.
We pray: “If bodhichitta has not arisen in my being, may it arise. If it
is decreasing, may it increase. If it is increasing, may it grow yet further
for ourselves and others.”
suffering arises in ourselves or others, whatever inauspicious circumstances,
obstacles, or accidents come about, the only way to overcome them is by
engaging in virtuous activity with our body, speech, or mind. This can include
doing circumambulations, offering the
seven-branch prayer, and other positive actions. These are the ways
to overcome negativity. With strong determination and familiarization as
the basis, we can go further and recognize that the seed of virtue in body,
speech, and mind is this wholesome activity. This is the only way to overcome
all the unfortunate things that can happen to us.
4. Power of Remorse
power is the power of remorse. In these particular teachings remorse means
identifying the trouble-maker, what causes conflict, suffering, and problems.
We look at what really prevents us from being liberated not only from the
three lower realms but from all of samsara. People have a tendency to be
selfish. What is it that prevents us from being liberated and attaining
complete enlightenment? It is this tendency to treasure “me” too much and
too dearly. This is the largest obstacle on the path and gives rise to all
the negative emotions that take us in. In other words, allowing this tendency
to reign makes us unhappy again and again. When we are unhappy, we feel
uncomfortable physically as well. Anybody spending so much time being unhappy
mentally and physically doesn’t have a happy life. The tendency to cherish
the self so highly is our greatest fault. Once we are clear that ego and
self-cherishing are to blame, it is much easier to deal with situations
than simply accepting that we have a strong ego. An individual with a strong
sense of self finds it difficult to be free because he or she strengthens
that tendency on a daily basis. But here the training, rather than strengthen
ego more, is to make it diminish until it vanishes. This is the outcome
of the power of remorse.
mind training, sometimes obstacles arise and we feel that our
bodhichitta is not increasing or that we aren’t feeling compassion
for others. This is an obstacle that does not come from outside of us; rather,
it stems from believing we are so important. Sometimes we think, “Oh, I
can’t stand it if something bad happens to me. I can’t stand this suffering.
I only want to be happy.” Or we are depressed, and think, “I can’t do anything
for others. This is too difficult. I can’t help myself, much less others.”
The desire not to have anything negative happen to ourselves and the feeling
that we can’t possibly help others are the main obstacles to this practice.
We have to recognize that these obstacles come >from the belief that
self is very important. When this happens, we should think: “>From beginningless
time I have wandered in samsara and experienced all sorts of suffering and
difficulties. They have come from believing myself to be precious, from
taking a self to exist where, in fact, there is none.
suffering and all the non-virtuous actions I have committed come from this
illusion of a self. Not only have I wandered in samsara since beginningless
time, I am still doing so and, therefore, experience this difficulty. Taking
myself to be so precious is the cause.
I have been cherishing myself for so long that I continue to amass negative
karma. This will go on indefinitely if I don’t stop.
“It is the
thought of holding myself to more dearly than others that has resulted in
this suffering. This habit of clinging to a self will continue if I let
it and then there will never be any chance for true happiness.
what, I will destroy self-cherishing, which is the cause of all suffering.”
power is often translated as “reproach,” or “repudiation” of the fault.
Actually, the word in Tibetan is a compound in which the first syllable
means “wearing away.” So any time that you have a problem or an obstacle,
you recognize the cause, which is the clinging to a self. But you won’t
be able to get rid of your self-clinging immediately; you have to wear it
away. As you accustom yourself to that process and gradually efface the
notion that you are precious, bodhichitta will increase.
5. The Power of Aspiration
The first four of the five powers serve specific
purposes. When we begin, we are not yet able to engender virtuous qualities
in our lives or in our spiritual practice, so at this point the power of
good is important. When we cannot reduce the tendency of selfishness, it
is important to bring forth the power of remorse. To develop remorse, there
is a daily practice, which is the power of familiarization. Then there is
the assistant, which is the power of virtuous seeds. The fifth power is
a natural background that brings about the strength of all four, and this
is the power of aspiration.
The power of aspiration is the pure mental wish we
can make. As ordinary people, our mind does not have the strength to make
this wish of aspiration come true immediately, but that’s all right. The
sincerity we put into the wish will insure that sooner or later the effect
will materialize. Therefore, the power of aspiration is that we repeatedly
make the wish: “May I become capable of eliminating self-cherishing. May
I become capable of perfecting treasuring others as more important than
myself.” As we approach the force behind this aspiration, it actually manifests
more and more like that, until it becomes an actuality in our mind.
of aspiration means that whatever virtuous activity we do, whatever meditation
we do, whatever training in the instructions we do, we pray: “May my bodhichitta
increase and come to include all living beings. May it also be born in all
living beings. May it increase in those in whom it has been born, and may
this increasing bodhichitta really come to benefit all living beings.”
We make this aspiration prayer for the benefit of all living
beings at the end of any virtuous activity we perform or after any meditation
powers are a means to improve
our practice of bodhichitta and increase our ability to get rid of all the
obstacles that arise in our dharma practice. We should exercise these five
powers throughout our lifetime.
we can transform our behavior into a virtuous one by employing these powers.
The first power is recognizing that the negative things we have
done are indeed negative. Often when we perform a negative action, we are
quite attached to it. For instance, if we have someone who is giving us
a hard time, we may think, “Okay, today I’m going to go out and beat up
that guy. I am going to be a hero and he is going to be ground into nothing.”
We become quite attached to this notion and we like it. So the first power
is recognizing negative actions to be negative, which already decreases
the force of that karma.
power is to confess non-virtuous deeds to someone else. If we are completely
by ourselves, we can sit and think, “Oh, that was really bad. I confess
it,” That thought, however, has no great power. On the other hand, if we
go to someone else and say, “I did this really terrible thing,” then the
confession has more power. So going to a lama or spiritual friend and confessing
our negative actions has more power. If we can’t do that, simply confessing
in front of a shrine, a Buddha statue or stupa adds power to the confession.
power is relying on the remedy. This is the thought, “I did something really
bad. To purify it I am going to do this which is really good.” The third
power means relying on a virtuous action to help clear away past negative
power is the power of resolving not to repeat the negative action. Sometimes
we think, “I did this really bad thing in the past and I am truly sorry
I did it, but in the future I might have to do it again.” That, too, is
not very powerful, so the fourth power is that of resolving, “I will never
do that again.” These four powers are the best method for purifying previous negative
B. Practicing Mind Training at the Time of Death
18. The Mahayana instructions for transferring consciousness
at death are the five strengths; the way you behave matters.
1. Power of the Virtuous Seeds
five powers we have been discussing,
(though in a different order), will also help us achieve bodhichitta
at the time of death. The first
of the five powers is the power of virtuous seeds. When we know we are going
to die, the first thing we do is to give up all our possessions. We should
rid ourselves of any attachment or clinging we have to our worldly things
and give them with a happy mind
to whomever they can most help, thinking: “May these be used by this person.”
We should do this without any attachment, thinking: “Because I was attached
to many different things, the disturbing emotions of passion, attachment, ignorance, and so on, have
arisen. Now I need to be rid of all these things, and so I give them without
any attachment at all for whatever purpose they can best be used.”
2. Power of Aspiration
Second is the strength of aspiration. The particular
aspiration here is: “In this life and in all following lives, may I not
succumb to the tendency of treasuring myself as more important than others.
May self-cherishing diminish. May I promote again and again loving-kindness
and compassion.” We can make this aspiration right now, but it is especially
important to make when the signs of death begin to appear. We know that
there isn’t much time left so our sincerity increases and deepens. It is
especially important to make that aspiration at this time.
think: “Whatever virtue I have of body, speech and mind, may I, who have
practiced mind training in this lifetime, not be separated >from it
in the intermediate state or in the next lifetime. May I continue to practice
bodhichitta and may I not forget the teachings. In the next
life may I meet with the teacher who taught me these precious things.”
to the lama and the three jewels to grant their blessings
so that all of this may come about.
3. Power of Remorse
the power of remorse. The time of death is not an easy one, because we experience
a great deal of physical discomfort and pain as well as mental anguish and
unhappiness. Rather than feeling despair, we should identify the main cause
of our suffering as ego-clinging and make up our mind that at this point:
“I will try my best not to create the causes of the negative emotions and
karma created out of self-cherishing. I will really try my best to diminish
ego clinging from now on into all following lives.” Understanding that we
should not commit what causes suffering again in the future is the strength
At the time
of death we think: “Now I am
at the time of death and am experiencing
suffering. The cause is attachment to myself as being precious. In reality,
there is no ultimate self; the mind is not solid and real and, therefore, there is
nothing that actually dies. The suffering I am now experiencing comes from
clinging to the idea of myself as precious. It is this that I must destroy.”
4. Power of Goodwill
The fourth power, goodwill, is the most important
at the time of death. Whether we are in the bardo19 or
whether we are already in the next life, what is always of greatest benefit
is loving-kindness and compassion—treasuring others more than ourselves.
This attitude always brings benefit. Understanding this, we should make
up our mind very firmly and sincerely: “At all times and in all places I
will place special energy in bringing forth the qualities of loving-kindness,
compassion, and the vow of a bodhisattva.” If we have already trained ourselves
in thinking like this now, then it will come back at the time of death,
in the bardo state, and in future lives as well. But especially at the time
of death, whatever comes to mind is much more acute and we really mean it
at that time. Sincerity is much deeper at the time of death, so at that
time we should especially take the vow of always placing special emphasis
on loving-kindness and compassion.
time we pray: “May my bodhichitta increase at the time of experiencing the pain of
passing away. May it also increase during the intermediate state
between lifetimes, and may I experience it during the next lifetime. May
I never be separated from this precious twofold bodhichitta.”
bodhichitta comprises relative and ultimate bodhichitta.
It is crucial to have a strong determination to engender bodhichitta at
5. Power of Familiarization
The fifth power of growing familiar must be practiced
while we are alive. We make ourselves more and more habituated to reducing
self-cherishing and increasing loving-kindness and compassion. Some practitioners
die while in sitting meditation. If we cannot do that, we can die in the
reclining position. The Buddha died in the position called “the reclining
lion,” where we place the right shoulder on the ground, one hand to the
cheek, lying comfortably on our side. As we die, we gently let our attention
remain in loving-kindness and compassion, making the strong wish to be of
benefit to all living beings, (relative bodhichitta) or to understand that
all phenomena are just mind, like dreams, like magical illusions, like a
mirage (ultimate bodhichitta). Passing away like this has tremendous benefit,
not only at that particular time but also for future lives. This is the
outcome of the fifth power of familiarization.
The second half of this instruction is, “the way
you behave matters.” It is very important how we actually pass away. Jamgon
Kongtrul wrote in his commentary, “There are many instructions for practitioners
on how to die, but this particular one, which utilizes the fivefold strength
at the time of death, is most wonderful.” He praised it as being of special
importance for practitioners to acquaint themselves with this way of passing.
At the time
of death, we use the power of
familiarization or habituation by thinking: “I have practiced bodhichitta
and will not forget it, no matter what suffering I am currently experiencing.
I will continue to practice bodhichitta during the suffering I am experiencing
now, during the intermediate state,
and in the next lifetime, I will not forget it.”
It is very
important that we make a great effort to practice bodhichitta
now because when we are in the midst of sickness and suffering it is not
easy to follow through. We have to rely on the force of familiarity to maintain
our resolve during trying circumstances.
To be more
specific: there are some methods we can physically invoke to help the practice.
It is said that the very best thing we can do is sit in the sevenfold posture
of Vairocana. If that is not
possible, we should lie down on our right side with our right hand on our
right cheek, blocking the right nostril. This is because the winds of karma
go through the right subtle channel and right nostril. The wisdom air
moves through the left subtle channel, which is why the left nostril is
kept open. With the air moving through that nostril, we meditate on sending
and taking as much as we are able. These are the oral instructions of the
Question: If one has accidentally harmed someone and receives
the fruition of that action because the person harmed takes extreme revenge,
does it help the person to purify negative karma even if the original harm
was unintentional? It seems to me that one is bearing the suffering that
the other person can’t bear by taking it. If that is really true, I am assuming
one is purifying that karma.
Rinpoche: Actually, the only thing to do is to be patient,
and then the result is beneficial for both. For oneself, the benefit is
obvious: one doesn’t create any more negative karma, and therefore one’s
patience represents purification. For the other person it is also beneficial
because if you get angry at him or her, they will only become angrier still.
By your patience and kindness, their anger may not decrease, but it will
not increase, so it is helping them. And if their anger should decrease,
your patience will have proven beneficial to them as well as to yourself.
As to the second part of your question: even if the karma for your initial
action is lifetimes long, I think that by bearing revenge patiently it could
be cleared in this lifetime.
Question: I have a question about the five powers
at the time of death. The bardo
teachings say we should remain unattached at the time of death, but the
five powers seem to suggest that we aspire never to be separated from our
teachers or from bodhichitta.
This seems to be a form of attachment and desire.
Rinpoche: These instructions are specific for the mind training.
If you have very good meditation, then you can rest in the nature of mind
at the time of death. That is
another instruction. There is a strong reason for the mind training instructions:
you can die in two states of mind, one very virtuous and the other filled
with fear and anger. Everything that follows is based upon these states
of mind. So if, as taught here, you die with an attitude of wanting to help
others, of wanting to increase loving-kindness and so on, then the appearances
of the bardo that arise at the time of death are peaceful, easy, and friendly.
Based upon the continuity of a peaceful, loving mind, the next birth will
also be good. But if you die in a state of anger or great fear, then the
appearances that arise in the bardo are frightening and very troubled. That
state of mind will continue influencing what comes next, just as it does
in dreams. For example, when we go to sleep happy and at peace, then our
dreams are happy, but if we have a troubled mind, say we fought before we
went to sleep, our dreams are troubled. It is the same at the time of death.
So it is very important to put our mind in a good place at that time.
Question: You said that if I die in a peaceful state of mind,
the next birth will also be peaceful, but the intermediate (or bardo) teachings
say that becoming liberated is best.
Rinpoche: If you really have a very strong foundation of
meditation, then, of course, it is best to be liberated at the time of death.
But without the ability to do this deepest kind of meditation, the best
thing to do is to raise yourself by stages to the point where you will have
the ability to train yourself to get there.
The Evaluation of Mind Training
on the evaluation of mind training shows the ways in which we can tell if mind training
V. THE EVALUATION OF MIND TRAINING
A. Clinging to Self as a Measure
Evaluation means seeing whether or not our practice
of mind training is going well. When we are involved in practicing mind
training, there may be some results of the practice. If that is the case,
it is good to acknowledge it; we can rejoice in that way. But since we are
ordinary practitioners, it is possible that at times our mind training will
not go that well. At that time it is necessary to acknowledge this so we
can be more diligent in ridding ourselves of the negative forces and put
more energy into promoting the good forces.
19. All the Buddha's dharma converges on a single point.
instruction is that all dharma, all the teachings of the Hinayana
and Mahayana, have one common purpose: to reduce or eliminate
the clinging to a self. Whatever dharma we practice, whatever mind training
we meditate on, the purpose is to diminish that clinging. If our clinging
doesn’t diminish, then our practice isn’t working properly. If we notice
that the continual thought of ourselves as important is decreasing, it is
one sign that mind training is working.
If we want
to know whether our dharma practice is working or not, we have to examine
it by asking, “Do I still consider myself to be important? Am I still clinging
to my self as something precious?” For instance, if we had a piece of gold
and wanted to know how much we had, we could not know this just by looking
at it. We would have to put it on a scale and weigh it. Similarly, measuring
our clinging to self is a way of telling if our dharma practice is working.
Is our clinging to the self diminishing or increasing?
It is said there are 84,000 kinds of dharma, which
are too numerous to understand and practice fully. For instance, if practitioners
in the main vehicles of the Hinayana, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana do
not have a thorough understanding, they may have the impression that the
Hinayana or Shravakayana is very different from Mahayana and even more different
>from the Vajrayana. This is not a correct view because all of the Buddha’s
Let’s look at the first turning of the wheel of dharma
that emphasizes the four noble truths. The first noble truth is the most
important one with the other three being additional truths. The first noble
truth is the truth of suffering; the others are the truth of the origin,
the truth of the path, and the truth of cessation. It is said that we should
understand the truth of suffering, which has four aspects. These are impermanence,
suffering, interdependent origination, and egolessness of person. In other
words, the main intent of the first turning is the understanding that the
personal identity of a self is non-existent, and that the main practice
is to develop realization of egolessness. In this way, the main intent of
the first turning is cultivating the knowledge that realizes egolessness,
which is the direct remedy against ego-clinging.
In the second turning, there are many sutras, namely,
the Prajnaparamita sutras which focus on egolessness. We know the condensed
form of the Prajnaparamita sutras, the Heart Sutra, states, “There
is no eye, no ear, no tongue,” and so forth, to show that all phenomena
are empty and devoid of having a self-entity. The purpose of the egolessness
of phenomena and the main aim of a bodhisattva in this second turning is
to develop relative and absolute bodhichitta, as well as training in the
six perfections, to realize emptiness. Why? Because understanding emptiness
is the direct remedy for clinging to a self, there is a direct relationship
between the first turning of the Shravakas and the second turning in the
vehicle of Mahayana.
In the Vajrayana, the main practices are called the
creation stage and the completion stage of the yidam deity. In the creation
stage, rather than having the ordinary concept of oneself as being just
“me,” with an ordinary body that is impure and a mind that is influenced
by disturbing emotions and ego-clinging, we train in the mandala of the
yidam deity, which is completely pure. We identify ourselves as pure, totally
free of ego-clinging and negative emotions, a non-samsaric state. That is
the direct remedy against ordinary clinging to self. Our environment is
not samsaric but a pure Buddha-field; our dwelling place is not an ordinary
house but the mandala of the deity; our body is not an ordinary body but
the pure enlightened form of the deity; our voice is the enlightened speech,
and our state of mind is the deity’s awakened mind. This is a training that
is the direct remedy for the ordinary way of clinging to oneself as being
an impure, ordinary, samsaric being. In the completion stage, we dissolve
everything into emptiness and remain with our mind resting in the nature
of mind, the nature of all phenomena. This is the direct remedy for ego-clinging,
believing there is a solid personal identity.
In this way, there is complete agreement between
the first, second, and third turnings of the wheel of dharma. The text says
that all levels of teachings, or “all dharmas agree on the one point,” with
the one point being a direct remedy for ego-clinging.
In this special context of mind training, we are
presented with methods for diminishing and eradicating the tendency of ego-clinging.
First we learn how to develop absolute bodhichitta, which is the understanding
of emptiness that directly realizes that the personal identity is empty.
Some kind of method is required when we resolve to achieve enlightenment.
According to the advice Atisha received from Jowo Serlingpa, “Planting the
seed of bodhichitta does not grow well if the soil is too clean. It grows
much better in soil that is dirty and fertilized.” This means that if we
are considering whether there is an ego or not, we can say that the impure
way of thinking that there is a self can be more conducive for giving rise
to bodhichitta than the thought that there is no personal self. Therefore,
in the mind training of relative bodhichitta, the main part of the practice
here, we accept that there is a personal self. The reason we do that is
to make it easier to give up self-cherishing and to regard others as more
important than ourselves. Also in sending and taking practice we assume
there is a self and there is another we are sending and taking to. The purpose
of sending and taking is to reduce self-cherishing and to increase cherishing
others. In this way, whether we are training in absolute or relative bodhichitta,
the purpose is to decrease ego-clinging. So all three vehicles agree with
one another at one point.
In the context
of this training, “The Buddha’s dharma converges on a single point,” our
evaluation of whether we are improving in our practice or not are the questions:
“Is our level of self-cherishing decreasing? Is treasuring others over ourselves
increasing? Is there any progress there?” This is how we keep track of progress
in our practice.
B. RELYING ON YOURSELF
AS A MEASURE OF MIND TRAINING
20. Of the two witnesses, attend to the principal one.
way to tell whether the mind training is working is the instruction which says, “Of the
two witnesses, attend to the principal one.” If we are wondering whether
we are good dharma practitioners or not, there are actually two possible
witnesses: ourselves and others. For instance, other practitioners and friends
can look at us and have an opinion of whether we are good people or not.
Yet they can only see our outward behavior; they cannot really look inside
our mind. So the other judge, which is our own mind, is more profound because
we can see into our mind. Others can see that we are doing something which
appears good to them, but only we ourselves know whether our motivation
and intention are good or not. Therefore, between these two witnesses the
more important one is oneself. If we can look at our behavior, not be ashamed,
and know it is faultless, then that is the more important judge.
There is one more aspect to how we should evaluate
progress: it is best if both witnesses were to agree that we have perfected
the training. We are trying to give up self-cherishing and to treat others
as more important than ourselves. Even if we are not trying our best, just
thinking, “It would be good if I could” is also fine. Even if we are not
feeling that way, just the attitude that thinks the teachings on mind training
are “really precious teachings and I hope one day to get into them” is also
fine. In this way, it is beneficial to evaluate whether or not we have the
right attitude and the noble intention of diminishing self-cherishing and
cherishing others higher.
C. State of Mind as a Measure of Mind Training
21. At all times, rely only on a joyful mind.
way to evaluate our practice is to check our mind to see what kind of state it is in. This will also
tell us how well our practice is going. For instance, when illness, accidents,
or tragedies happen and we become frightened about them to the extent that
depression sets in, our mind training practice isn’t working. If these conditions always
get the better of us, then the practice is ineffective. Instead of this
happening, when negative circumstances occur, we can use our mind training.
These obstacles then become like friends of mind training, and we can be
happy about them. It is another measure that our mind training practice
is working. If something negative happens and we think that we can’t bear
such suffering, then our practice is not working. But if negative things
happen and we instead instantly think, “So many people have catastrophes
like this. I wish that I could take on all of their suffering as well,”
then we know that whatever happens becomes an aid to our mind training.
In this way, our mind is always in a happy state because we are able to
use whatever arises as part of our practice.
The real measurement for mind training is to be found
in the instruction: “At all times, rely only on a joyful mind.” This has
to do with the degree to which we have succeeded in refusing self-cherishing
because as long as there is the tendency to refer to “me” as being so important,
then there is selfish hope and fear. By hope we mean thinking, “I hope such
and such will happen. If it doesn’t, I will be disappointed.” By fear we
mean, “I have this really nice thing or situation, I am afraid I might lose
it.” We are preoccupied with trying to get what we want, trying to arrange
the circumstances for our happiness. This selfish activity is accompanied
by worry about what we don’t want. We are concerned that an undesirable
situation might happen; when it does, we will become upset and unhappy.
D. Staying on Guard
22. If you can practice even when distracted, you are well
way to evaluate progress in mind training is that we spontaneously think of others, even
when we are not consciously working with our practice. So when events arise
and we aren’t consciously thinking of our practice, instead of getting flustered
and forgetting our intention, our natural reaction is bodhichitta,
thinking of others. If our first, spontaneous thought shows that we are
not giving preference to ourselves, then this is a sign that even though
we are distracted, our practice is working.
When we are practicing mind training and we have
some results of the practice, the tendency to become conceited may arise,
“I am special now. I got somewhere through the practice. This is good enough
for me.” Don’t be too happy about having some results because we need to
reach complete enlightenment and be capable of helping each and every living
being. Until we are capable of helping every being reach liberation, we
have not reached our goal. There is no reason to congratulate ourselves
too early and be inflated with pride just because we have some signs of
Another type of thought can arise: “Okay, I am practicing
mind training but there is not much of a result.” We may become disappointed
and discouraged thinking: “I am a hopeless practitioner. I am not getting
anywhere. Maybe there is no way for someone like me really to achieve this
kind of practice.” We may even become disheartened and give up, which is
also not necessary because we have achieved one result of practice already—simply
understanding the goodness of reducing self-cherishing and valuing mind
training. Understanding this is already a sign of good mind training and
we may be able to improve upon that by carrying on without being disheartened.
As we apply
ourselves to this training, we train our mind. It is not a matter of looking
like a good practitioner; rather it has to do with putting our heart into
it. As the Buddha taught, our goal is to thoroughly train our mind. It is
not a matter of being successful, but of trying our best. So whether we
have perfected mind training or not or whether we are trying to become fully
enlightened, it is fine. We may not have totally trained our own mind yet,
but we are moving in that direction, which is good.
The Commitments of Mind Training
VI. COMMITMENTS OF MIND TRAINING
deals with the commitments of mind training. “Commitment” here means the promises that we make
with this mind training. Basically, we promise to work for the benefit of
all other beings. That promise should not be broken: we should work for
the benefit of others and remember that in all our activities.
“commitment” (Skt. samaya, Tib. damtsig) is often regarded
as something extremely dangerous and risky. Commitment is definitely something
you need to observe, respect, and adhere to, but you need not fear it. A
commitment is given by the teacher to insure that disciples follow the right
course, avoiding hindrances and side-tracks, to proceed in a way that is
good and beneficial. It is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure of
that and the word commitment refers to this. When the disciple makes
up his or her mind to follow a certain course, a mental pledge to do so
is made. Having committed themselves to practice in a certain way, then
they should follow that, otherwise what’s the point? There is no need to
make a commitment if you are not going to follow it. The purpose of making
the commitment is to make sure that you move in the right direction, avoiding
obstacles and progressing along the path.
of mind training have eighteen instructions that are discussed below.
A. Three General Principles
principles define the making of commitments: not to break promises; not
to act in a pretentious manner; and not to be one-sided.
23. Always train in the three basic principles.
basic principle is not to break the promise to work for the benefit of others.
To do this we often take extra vows, such as the individual liberation vows,
the bodhisattva vows, and the tantric vows.
Whichever vows we have taken, they should not be broken.
principle of mind training is to make the commitment to try our best to
diminish selfishness and to promote loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta.
What happens when we try our best? We may be successful or not. Our situation
may change >from time to time. Sometimes our tendency to be selfish diminishes
and sometimes it swells again. Sometimes we are compassionate and caring
for others, at other times we are not. Does this mean we are in conflict
with the basic commitment? Have we violated or broken our samaya with mind
training? No. Success is not the measurement of whether we are in harmony
with the commitment but whether we keep up our efforts or not. For example,
if we totally turn our back on the practice and say, “This just doesn’t
work! Ego-clinging is a part of me and there is nothing I can do about it.
Being selfish is how I am,” then we have broken our commitment. Or if we
insist, “There is no way I can be more kind and compassionate and develop
bodhichitta. It is something I am not cut out to do,” the commitment is
broken. If we are not that good at arousing bodhichitta, it doesn’t mean
we have broken our commitment, but rather that we need to try a little harder.
As long as we have the attitude, “I will try my best to reduce self-cherishing.
I will try my best to promote loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta,”
then we are still in harmony with the commitment and it remains unbroken.
The second basic principle is not to act in a pretentious
way. We may have the intention of showing others that we are really practicing
mind training and have no attachment to self. As a result, we
might start doing outrageous things like not caring for our body or clothes,
looking like a beggar, or acting like a madman. This is what is meant by
“acting outrageously.” If our motive is to make others think, “Oh, this
person has perfected some kind of great dharma,” then that motive is impure
and should be avoided. Acting crazy for no good reason only calls attention
“Don’t resort to pretentiousness.” means don’t put
on a show of having perfected mind training, of not being selfish any longer.
It is not like refusing to take medicine because you have stopped caring,
but reflects more on our attitude towards others, who might get a wrong
impression. Being pretentious is rude and unnecessary. The instruction is:
Don’t do that.
basic principal is “Do not be partial or biased.” For instance, we might
sometimes have patience with the negativities of human beings, but then
we are impatient with the harm caused by non-humans. Or maybe we can stand it when animals cause us
some kind of harm, but we can’t stand the same treatment from humans. Or
sometimes we have great patience with our friends, but none with strangers
or people who don’t like us. Then again, we may have patience for all of
these, but none when we become sick. So again, this is what is meant be
being “one-sided.” We should be able to bear all, and we should have an
attitude of equanimity towards every situation and type of being. We should
not divide our loving-kindness and compassion so that they are directed
towards some and not others. Or when things are going well and there are
no problems, we feel very compassionate, but when things go wrong, it disappears.
We should not have biased or partial compassion.
B. Specific Principles
24. Change your attitude and be natural.
The fourth point, “Change your attitude and be natural,”
has two parts. Normally, we are selfish and disregard the importance of
others. Changing that means being unselfish and caring. The second part
is acting naturally, i.e., not being conceited about unselfishness, about
diminishing self-importance, and regarding others as more important. All
this does not mean that we are special or superior to others. Or we may
begin to criticize those who do not follow this pattern of behavior. Instead
of criticizing them and putting on airs about our practice, we should be
kinder to them. The meaning of acting naturally is being equal to and in
harmony with anyone you meet. We should not deliberately act differently
from them, but be naturally, even though our attitude has changed.
25. Don’t speak ill of others’ shortcomings.
The fifth point is that we should not talk about
others’ weaknesses. This mainly has to do with how we communicate. When
we do so, our words should be nice and not unpleasant, the main point here.
Others’ business has to do with how they look, how they speak, with their
attitude and whether they are rich or not. We may think that there is something
wrong in some of these areas, but that doesn’t mean we have to speak about
it. In terms of dharma practice, something may be lacking but it doesn’t
mean it is our job to point this out to everyone. There is another
point here, which has to do with our motivation. If we really have a good
heart and are sure that others will change by what we say, then it is a
different matter. If we say it nicely, that’s okay. But if it is said out
of ill-will, rivalry, spite or other negative emotions, then it belongs
to talking about others’ weaknesses, which should be avoided.
not engage in conversations about others’ faults. We don’t, point out faults
in people who have physical deficiencies such as lameness or blindness,
or mental deficiencies such as stupidity. Likewise, we don’t point out dharma
faults in others, such as their being lazy and not practicing, or their
breaking their vows. In other words, we don’t say harmful things about others.
Rather, with a smile we should speak in a very gentle and loving manner,
in a way that makes sense and is pleasing to them.
26. Don’t ponder the affairs of others.
instruction dealt with the way we act, while this instruction concerns motivation.
If we have faults, we need to think about them and be concerned about them;
otherwise, the faults will only increase and grow stronger. So we need to
look at our faults because nobody else can do that for us. But when it comes
to others’ faults, we don’t need to look for them, especially those of our
dharma friends and other dharma practitioners. Of course, they are going
to have faults and that is something which they themselves will have to
deal with. It is their own karma, so there is absolutely no point in our
doing it for them. In fact, getting involved in others’ faults can only
bring harm. We can’t fix or do anything about the faults others possess.
They have to deal with their own problems. If they are lazy, they may be
doing the best they can. Most people who have entered the dharma do try.
They may have large obstacles, but they do the best they can. For us to
search for their faults and point them out doesn’t make any sense at all
and doesn’t do any good. We need only to examine our own faults.
words, we may spend a lot of attention trying to figure out what others
are doing and whether it is right or wrong. Because we bring such thoughts
into our mind, sooner or later it becomes a matter of speech, the fifth
instruction. Here, we are just pondering others’ affairs and that is unnecessary.
Rather, it is better simply to respect others and trust that they are probably
doing their best, doing what they consider right. Afterwards, we work with
becoming used to this view. If, out of a good heart, we see faults then,
of course, it is all right to see if it is possible to mend them.
begin to work on ourselves by examining our faults we then:
27. Work with the stronger afflictions first.
examine our own faults, we see that we have many afflictions or disturbing
emotions. The first thing to
do is determine which disturbing emotion we have the most trouble with.
Once we recognize that, then we need to work on it because it is our special
weak point. We should concentrate all of our practice on our strongest disturbing
emotion and work on that one first.
In the beginning, we are trying to deal with the
negative patterns of how we speak, then with our mental attitude which is
more difficult. Some disturbing emotions are dominant in our stream of being,
so we need to determine what emotion haunts us. Is it anger we are always
preoccupied with? Or is it rivalry? Is it attachment? Once we identify the
emotion, we can try to work on it. For example, while doing prostrations
we can make up our mind, “All right. I am doing prostrations, but it is
primarily to overcome the particular emotion of anger or attachment.” When
we are doing the Vajrasattva meditation with nectar pouring into us, we
can imagine that a specific negative emotion is being purified. Dealing
with it in this way, we can overcome our strongest negative emotion.
our greatest fault and beginning to work on it, we then:
28. Send away any hope for results.
Giving up hope has to do with thinking that we are
gaining some nice results from mind training: we are able to be more kind
and compassionate to others, less selfish and so forth. But then, we may
hold in the back of our mind that if we are good, people will be nice in
return. We have some expectation of being rewarded for being a good person
and having a good heart. Or we could expect, “As I become a better practitioner,
others will know me for being so. They will respect me, and I will become
important in some way.” Or maybe we think about good results later on. For
example, “I will get something important out of this at some point.” Of
course, it is not the case that we won’t; there is a definite consequence
of practice that ripens as a result. In the context of mind training, we
give up all hope for results.
with the next instruction:
29. Avoid poisonous food.
our disturbing emotions, we try to help others. But if all our efforts
do not result in decreasing our ego, then no matter how much virtue we have
practiced, it is like eating food that is poisoned. The result of eliminating
the disturbing emotions must be that self-clinging decreases. If we are
doing mind training with the hope of benefiting ourselves, then it
is as if that virtue were poisoned.
is obviously a metaphor. We all eat, but if there is poison in the food,
it is harmful. In the same way, we need to progress on the spiritual path
and do what is good and meaningful, but if a selfish attitude is mixed with
that, then the root cause of samsara (of clinging to a personal identity
and ego) is not totally eradicated because there is some poison mixed with
practice. We should try to overcome that.
instruction is difficult to translate into English. There are several completely
different translations of it, such as, “Don’t rely on our natural tendency,”
but we render it as:
30. Don’t be so constant.
In our life,
we are quite consistent in our actions: if somebody is very good to us,
we are kind in return, whereas if somebody harms us, then we try to take
revenge. That is what “consistency” means here. The instruction is suggesting
that we act in the opposite way from a worldly person: If somebody harms
us, we need to respond with kindness, not to exact revenge: we seek to benefit
them not to harm them.
Consistency is usually a good quality and describes
someone who has a good character continuously and is not flaky, someone
who still has integrity through many years, and a noble heart. It is good
to have consistency, but here it means something else: It has to do with
how we usually are. Should we continue sticking to the way we usually are,
to the tendency to be selfish, and to regard ourselves as really important?
No. That is not necessary, which is what is meant in this verse.
31. Don’t get riled by critical remarks.
instruction is not to talk about others’ weak points and not to concern
ourselves with their affairs. This instruction is more specific in that
it says not to return cutting remarks. If somebody says something bad about
us, we don’t get upset and say something sarcastic or cutting in return.
32. Don’t lie in ambush.
If someone has hurt us in some way, we usually think,
“However long it takes, I’m going to wait until I have a chance to get back
at you. One day that chance will come and then I’m going to get you.” That
is what is meant by waiting in ambush. The teaching is obviously to just
let the hurt go.
33. Don’t strike at weak points.
means that even if we see something terribly wrong with someone, we don’t
point it out to them or hurt them in some way. Also, if negative non-human
beings are doing us some kind of harm,
we don’t do a special practice to harm them in return. In other words, even
though we see that someone has a great fault, we don’t do something to hurt
This instruction means that we speak pleasantly to
someone, but actually we have unpleasant thoughts about them and so there
is deceit hiding in our words. This instruction is a little different from
the instruction, “Don’t disparage others,” in that it is more deceitful
and thus more hateful.
34. Don’t transfer
a dzo’s burden onto an ox.
is half yak and half cow; possibly from a male yak and female cow, or the
other way around, from a female yak called dri and a bull. The offspring
is very strong and able to carry a larger load than an ox, but it is also
much more expensive because it can work harder and can carry a heavier load.
This instruction means that everyone should carry the burden appropriate
to him or her. If you take the dzo’s load and put it on the ox, the ox will
not be able to carry it for very long. So, if we have an unpleasant task
which we are supposed to do, or we have some fault that is our own, we shouldn’t
expect someone else to take care of it. We have to take address it ourselves.
We cannot carry each other’s burdens.
“Don’t transfer a dzo’s burden to an ox” has another
meaning. It could also be that one thinks that the dzo is more valuable
and therefore thinks, “I don’t want to hurt it by overloading it, so I would
rather have the ox carry the load in order to protect my dzo.” That is the
meaning here. When something goes wrong, we want to protect someone, probably
oneself, right? In other words, we point our finger at someone else, saying,
“He/she did it!” We pass the blame away from ourselves so the idea here
is: Don’t pass the blame.
35. Don’t aim to be the fastest.
It is human
nature that if we have something good, we will crave something yet better.
If something is done on time, we want to do it even quicker. If everybody
has something we already have, we want ours even bigger or nicer. That’s
why we are taught, “Don’t aim to be the fastest.”
When three people join in a race, the aim is to be
the first. The attitude each has is, “I can win.” We can hold this kind
of attitude when we do other things, like dharma studies. We want to be
the best, the winner. That is not what is called a noble heart, which should
be, “I will try my best, but I am also happy when others are successful.
It is not necessary for me to be better than they are.”
36. Don’t act
with a twist.
The literal meaning in Tibetan of this instruction
is that we don’t undertake hardships motivated by a calculated intent. Of
course, it is nice to go to trouble for others, to be willing to suffer
so that others are happy, but if our motivation is to help ourselves so
that in the end we win material things or receive acclaim from others then
we are acting with a hidden motivation.
say, “Okay, I agree you won in this case,” with the hidden intent that it
is ultimately we who will prevail. Or we might give something to somebody,
not out of generosity, but because we hope to get something from them later
on. This is the wrong motivation.
37. Don’t turn gods into demons.
we are practicing mind training and things are going very well. We may then develop
pride in our accomplishments and think, “Oh, I did so well at this mind
training that now I’m really a great practitioner.” Or we might develop
envy for others who are progressing much more rapidly than we are. In both
these cases we are making a god into a demon. In this analogy, the mind
training practice, which goes well for us or for someone else, is like a
god. If this accomplishment creates a negative emotion such as pride, then
it is like a demon.
“Don’t make a god into a demon,” means don’t degrade
the practice of mind training. We are trying to cultivate the noble heart
of bodhichitta, but then we may become proud of ourselves because of being
a bodhisattva and think we are special and superior to others who are not
doing so. This is called “degrading one’s purity,” in the sense that it
hardens our sensitivity so that we don’t really care for others and are
more inclined to be rude. That is called “turning a god into a demon,” or
“degrading the practice.”
38. Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your happiness.
that even though we wish well for everyone, there is some kind of negative
undertone in it. For instance, wishing for our own happiness, we might wish
that something bad happens to somebody else. We shouldn’t do that. We may
think that if our friend had some misfortune befall him, then it will show
us in a better light. This would be seeking another’s pain as a component
of our own happiness. Even the thought, “If my enemy dies, then it is good
for me,” is seeking pain as a component of one’s own happiness and it is
We shouldn’t rejoice in others’ misfortune. For instance,
if there is someone causing us trouble, of course, it would be much better
for us if they stopped. If they suddenly die or experience a disaster, it
doesn’t mean we may rejoice and comment, “Hey, great!” That would be called
seeking others’ pain as a limb of our own happiness.
the eighteen commitments of mind training. The main point of the commitment
here is to try our best. If we are successful, fine; if not, continue trying.
Question: This is regarding the instruction about not concerning
yourself with the affairs of others. In many American Buddhist communities,
the members have not paid attention when bad things were happening within
the community, and so people were hurt. Not becoming involved
seems to go against the spirit of the mind training practice. If you watch something happen that will
damage others, yet you refuse to become involved, isn’t this violating the
whole spirit of the teaching?
Rinpoche: The instruction doesn’t mean that we should let
any kind of harm just happen. What this particular instruction is talking
about is what most people usually do: They look for people’s faults when
there is no need to look for them. Of course, in a situation where you clearly
see that somebody is doing something very harmful to you or others, then
it is your responsibility to stop them if you can. If someone is going to
harm you, then you can talk to them and say, “Look, if you do this, then
it is bad in a worldly sense and it is bad in a dharma sense.” If you are
able to stop them, that is very good. Likewise, if they are doing something
harmful to someone else and you can, by explaining the negative results
of these actions, prevent them from engaging in the bad action, then it
is very beneficial. In fact, mind
training suggests that you must do that. This instruction
talks about the times when we search out others’ faults for no reason at
Question: In everyday life, there are situations where people
are really driving you crazy. You said we should look at them smilingly
and pretend. That means I wouldn’t be honest. If somebody repeatedly does
something that gets on my nerves, like using my soap, then after three years
I say, “Stop now!”
Rinpoche: If it is not a big thing and you are able just
to be patient, then it is good to practice patience. However, if it is something
that isn’t big but continually annoying to you and you are not able to be
patient about it, you can, in a skillful manner without being angry and
yelling, say, “This is annoying me.” Deal with it in a skillful manner.
Question: Is there a recommendation against being socially
active in a community, to bring a positive change to the community from
the point of view of practice? Does becoming involved with people in that
way contradict what some of the instructions indicate?
Rinpoche: The intention is always to help others, and that
should be done in whatever way you can. But whether you are doing it effectively
or not depends upon your state of mind.
So that is why all these teachings talk so much about taming your mind.
If your mind is in the right place, then any help you may give will arise
spontaneously. You won’t even need to think, “Oh, I should help that person!”
It happens automatically. But if you haven’t worked with your mind and you
go out trying to help people, it might be that without your knowing it there
is some other kind of motivation, fault, or lack of skillful means at play.
For example, you might suddenly, in the middle of all your efforts, become
completely exhausted and think, “I just cannot do this any more.” Or you
might feel unconsciously proud over being helpful, having the motivation
of wanting something in return. So wisdom and skill have to go together.
We can make a distinction: What is more important? Helping others or taming
our own mind? While ultimately the goal is to help others, the first thing
to do is to tame our own mind so that we are able to help others effectively.
Question: My question is: How do we know when an emotion is negative?
Anger seems very obvious, but I think there are more subtle things like
fear or other emotions like that. My second question is whether the Vajrasattva
practice is appropriate for all negative emotions?
Rinpoche: If an emotion is directly harmful to others or indirectly,
or implicitly harmful to others, then it is called “negative.” If it is
beneficial either directly or indirectly, then it is called “positive.”
Vajrasattva practice eliminate negative emotions? No, it cannot totally
eliminate negative emotions but this practice can lessen the intensity of
the negative emotions.
Guidelines for Mind Training
VII. GUIDELINES OF MIND TRAINING
section of mind training deals with advice on mind training which is given
through twenty-one instructions. These are divided into two sections: what
we should reject and what we should adopt.
A. What to Reject
39. All practices should be done with one intention.
here includes the training of meditation in the post-meditation state: how
to practice while eating, while walking, while sitting, while lying down,
while talking to others, and so forth. In other words, whatever activities
we do, there is one way to focus, one way to practice. In this particular
context of mind training, i.e., training our attitude of bodhichitta, it
means being benevolent, and this implies never parting from the good-will
of wanting to benefit others in all that we do, whether we are able to bring
all living beings into our focus or only a few. This is the first guideline:
“All practices should be done with one intention.”
40. One practice corrects everything.
anything bad happens to us such as being hurt by others, having a serious
accident, seeing our disturbing emotions increase greatly, or losing our
desire to meditate, we should think about how many living beings in the
world have the similar misfortunes, and how painful it is for them. We should
wish that on top of our own suffering, we could take on the suffering of
all others. This is the antidote to whatever misfortune befalls us.
instruction tells us how to deal with these misfortunes:
41. At the start and the finish, an activity to be done.
The third point has to do with how we conduct ourselves
on a daily basis. The start is our first thought for the day, when we wake
up in the morning. We should make up our mind: “This is a new day. How am
I going to use it in practice, not only for absolute but also relative bodhichitta?
I will try my best with body, speech and mind to live in accordance with
these principles in how I behave, in how I eat—in my attitude towards everything.”
Then we go about our daily activities and at the end of the day, while in
bed, we think: “This morning I made up my mind to follow bodhichitta. How
well did I do in my physical actions and behavior? How well did I do with
my speech to others? Did I do it with the bodhisattva principle? How well
have I kept the commitment I made this morning?” If I notice that I did
quite fine, then I can rejoice and add: “It was good. I will continue in
this same way the next days as well.” If I noticed that I was not that great,
then I can say, “This wasn’t a good day. I will try to do better in the
future.” Then we go to sleep. So, there is one way to begin the day and
another way to conclude it, what is meant by “At the start and finish, an
activity to be done.”
42. Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
we can say that there are only two outcomes to any situation: positive or
negative. If bad things happen, we should not blame anyone else: it is our
own misfortune coming from our own karma. Therefore, we should think that
the only thing to do about this unfortunate situation is to clear up all
non-virtuous karma and pray that it may not happen to other beings as well.
If good things happen, then we should not become careless or lazy, but wish
that these good things happen to others. Also, whatever good happens, such
as wealth, power, or influence, should be turned to some positive use.
If things were always pleasant and we were successful
and experienced good circumstances, it is quite likely that we would become
too attached to that and expect that everything would be fine. Because of
being too fond of having a good time and enjoying ourselves, it is quite
likely that we should forget about our concern for other beings and become
insensitive. If things always go wrong and we continuously have problems,
it is quite likely that we will get caught up in that and worry about ourselves
too much. The instructions here are to be willing to be patient with whatever
happens, whether good or bad times.
happens we should:
43. Maintain these two, even at the risk of your life.
There is a phrase in Tibetan which is “higher than
you would your own life.” Is there anything we hold more dear than our life?
When it is lost, we cannot continue, so it is most precious to us. Yet,
for a practitioner of mind training, there is something more precious, and
that is what to adopt and what to avoid. This means we should adopt what
is virtuous and avoid what is non-virtuous. We should realize that discriminating
between what is good and what is evil is actually more important than our
always try to maintain all of our Vajrayana vows (Skt. samaya) and particularly the vows
of the mind training.
The final instruction concerns disturbing emotions
Train in the three difficult points.
disturbing emotions there are three things we can do. The first is
to recognize a disturbing emotion when it arises. The second is to turn
it back, which means to employ the remedy very forcefully. Even though we
have recognized the disturbing emotions and have employed the remedy to
eliminate them, we must perform the third activity, which is to cut them
off completely. This means ridding ourselves of them altogether, which is
the most difficult activity of the three because it requires a great deal
of diligence and mindfulness. Up to now, the points have dealt with what
needed to be abandoned. Next are instructions concerning what we should
B. What to Adopt
three preliminary conditions or causes for a successful dharma practice:
Take up the three main causes.
causes are: (a) relying on an authentic teacher; (b) settling our mind
very firmly in the dharma so that it becomes workable; and (c) having the
necessary materials to practice, such as clothes, food, implements, and
time. We must work to have all these circumstances come together for us.
This has to do with not turning away from the seeds mentioned.
The first cause is a genuine spiritual teacher who
is realized. We should not have trust in someone who acts contrary to the
spiritual teachings. Let’s say we have met someone who teaches something
that is correct, invaluable, and worthy. This essential trust insures that
we can practice. If we don’t trust the teachings and the teacher, then how
can we carry through with the instructions? So that sense of trust is something
to keep, and we should not let it slip away.
The second cause is to have enthusiasm for mind training,
delight in practicing and applying the instructions, having understood their
value, and, finally, being happy to continue. The third cause is not to
turn away from mind training itself, not to forget what is to be avoided
and what is to be adopted. When this is done:
Pay attention that these three things do not diminish.
three things that we should not let diminish in power. First, because the
lama is the root of all virtues, we should not let our trust for him diminish.
Second, because mind training
teachings are essential to the Mahayana,
we should not let our joy and delight in practicing these teachings diminish.
Finally, we should not let any of our vows diminish.
Keep the three inseparable.
also make sure that virtuous activity is inseparable from body, speech,
and mind. Next, we should:
48. Train impartially
in all areas; deep, pervasive, and constant training is crucial.
Being impartial is how we train in loving-kindness
and compassion: we don’t favor those who deserve our love and compassion
or turn our backs on others. Rather, we make no distinctions in being kind
and compassionate. It is said we should be impartial in all areas of our
practice and not limit ourselves. The second aspect is to make this pervasive:
there is no barrier or limitation to any area of our training in how we
regard others. We train totally to embrace everyone. It also means that
we do not look outside, but rather at our own hearts and minds. Whenever
it is difficult to be loving and kind, we work to overcome that barrier.
When we feel like holding back our compassion, we train to overcome this
not just practice mind training and compassion towards one living being while overlooking
another. Mind training and bodhichitta
should apply to all human and non-human beings without exception. This instruction
extends into the next:
Always meditate on what aggravates you.
When we have an opponent or someone we don’t like,
it is harder to feel love and compassion. When someone tries to hurt us
emotionally or physically, this is an opportunity to be extra loving and
kind to that person. There are also those who are not grateful. We have
been kind to them, but they turn against us or do not appreciate what we
have done. For these people in particular, there is the opportunity to train
by having good feelings towards them.
to practice training with the most difficult persons and circumstances means
we should begin practice with those individuals who are especially hateful
to us, those who try to harm and fight with us, and with those who harm
us even when we have no bad feelings towards them. For these difficult individuals,
we should make an extra effort and try to be especially skillful in our
Don’t be swayed by outer circumstances.
feel very happy, our health is good, and everything seems to be going well,
we feel that we can practice, whereas when we are feeling ill and things
are going poorly, we think that we cannot practice. This is relying on external
conditions to determine if we will practice or not. The instruction, therefore,
means that whether we are feeling well or not, whether we are healthy or
not, whether we have money or not, whether people are kind to us or not,
whether we have all the proper conditions for practicing or not, we should
still practice. Not only do we not rely on external conditions but:
This time practice what is most important.
we have attained a precious human birth and come into contact with the dharma,
so we have the most important elements necessary to practice. Out of all
the things we can do with our life, practice is the most important because
it alone has a lasting benefit. The next instruction is:
Don’t make mistakes.
we show great diligence and patience in our worldly affairs, but we do not
show the same patience and diligence in our dharma practice. If we are like
that, then we have “mistaken patience” and “mistaken diligence.” In other
words, we should not apply good qualities to an incorrect object.
In our practice, we are trying to develop the qualities
of trust, devotion, kindness, and compassion. It is possible to place our
trust in someone who is not trustworthy or to feel sorry for those who undertake
hardships in order to practice the dharma. Rather, we should feel sorry
for people who are confused and get emotionally carried away. So, take care
not to be mistaken in these ways.
we are told:
we have great faith and devotion, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have
great energy and diligence and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we really believe
in the teachings and sometimes we don’t. We shouldn’t fluctuate like this:
we should be single-minded and simply practice. In addition to not applying
our diligence in the wrong way and oscillating:
Train with your whole heart.
to be completely positive that what we want to do is to practice and not
become distracted by other activities. In other words, we must stay single-minded
about the practice. Training wholeheartedly has the sense of not being timid
or hesitant about practicing because the practice seems too vast and difficult.
“With your whole heart” means acting courageously, being brave, and taking
the step. The kind of bravery needed is to think, “I can do this.” Even
if we haven’t been able to succeed, we still have the courageous attitude.
That is important.
of single-mindedness is to:
Free yourself through examination and analysis.
we should free ourselves from disturbing emotions, which we can do by continually examining our mind.
We ask ourselves: “Has a disturbing emotion come up? Have I managed to get
rid of it?” and so on, always being very conscious of what is going on in
When we have practiced, we may at some point get
the feeling, “This practice is going quite well. I am succeeding and am
not so selfish anymore. I also feel more kind and compassionate and caring.”
This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that we should just rest on our laurels,
thinking, “Now everything is fine.” We should put it to the test to see
whether or not it is really true or only an impression we have. When it
becomes most evident is when we are in a tight and difficult situation because
then we can see how our reaction is. Do we react immediately with kindness
and compassion? If we behave very nicely in difficult situations, then it
is okay. Then we can agree, “Yes, I have really progressed.” If we haven’t,
then we will see, “Oh! It was just an impression I had. I really need to
try harder and continue the training.”
Don’t make a big deal about it.
two parts to this instruction: the first is to avoid thinking, “Oh, I was
so kind to that person.” Or, “Oh, I practice so well. I try so hard. I’m
so good.” The second is to avoid expecting appreciation for our good works.
For instance, we might think, “I am so kind to that person that he should
be kind to me.” If we have such expectations, then our practice won’t go
well. Related closely to this is:
Don’t let being irritated tie you up.
If someone harms
us, whether they intended it or not, we should not think, “Well, she did
this to me, so I will never help her again.” This is the meaning of being
overly sensitive and irritable.
It is human
nature to be ill-humored when something annoying happens. But a practitioner
of mind training will try not to react with anger. Instead, a practitioner
tries to get to the point where he or she does not immediately react with
related to this instruction is:
If bad things
happen, we should not get overly upset or depressed; if good things happen,
we should not get overly excited and happy. The idea is to be very even-tempered.
Whatever happens, good or bad, we should stay on an even keel.
Don’t expect a standing ovation.
instruction means not to expect thanks, congratulations, or fame from the
activity of helping others. If we do something good for someone, we should
not wait for them to thank us, or expect that we might become admired or
famous. We shouldn’t expect anything like this.
This last instruction “Don’t expect a standing ovation,” may sound like
the instruction, “Don’t make a big deal about it,” and in some ways they
are similar. One is being kind in the hope of being treated nicely in return.
Here, it is more thinking of our reputation and hoping to be spoken of nicely.
points are about the same principle—having a good heart, a good intention,
or a noble resolve. The reason why there are so many instructions in this
section is that sometimes our good heart may be a little rusty, in need
of a little cleaning in certain situations. Sometimes we think: “It doesn’t
really matter. I’ll do this anyway.” Well, in fact it does matter. That
is the reason why twenty-one points are listed here, so that we see different
situations: how not to be pretentious, not to be irritable, not to fluctuate,
not to expect thanks, etc. In these areas we need to improve a bit so that
our good heart can be really clean and pure.
this completes the teaching of the mind training, I would like to add something on how these teachings
come to our Kagyu lineage. In this lineage, Gampopa
received the Mahamudra instructions
from Milarepa, who received them
from Marpa. Gampopa also received the mind training lineage from Atisha and he combined the two lineages. To practice both
of these instructions is very significant. Mahamudra is a subtle and profound
teaching, and if you are able to realize it, you can cut off all disturbing
emotions and self-clinging at the root. But sometimes this
alone doesn’t work. It is said that if the view is too high for a practitioner’s
existing level—if we don’t enter the path in proper way—we end up with more
disturbing emotions, in particular pride and jealousy. If this happens,
we need to practice mind training, which is like medicine for the mind when
the emotions get strong. The opposite can also happen. We may be practicing
mind training, but it doesn’t include enough of the ultimate view. Then
we should practice the Mahamudra teachings to develop a higher view.
also certain situations in which the Mahamudra teachings might be easier to practice. For instance,
they are good to do in retreat and will help us progress easily. But at
other times, when we are living in the world and associating with other
people, unfortunate circumstances can arise, at which time mind training
may be easier. It is therefore important to practice both.
This essential elixir of instruction,
Transforming the five kinds of degeneration
Into the path of awakening,
Is a transmission from Serlingpa.
Having awakened the karmic energy of previous
I was moved by deep devotion;
Therefore, ignoring suffering and criticism,
I sought out instruction on how to subdue ego-fixation.
Now when I die, I’ll have no regret.
It is said
that we live in degenerate times in which many things have declined, our
life span and pure views. On the other hand,, there is an increase in the
number of material objects and situations giving rise to the disturbing
emotions, such as aggression,
desire, attachment, and jealousy. Rather than thinking of these situations
as misfortunes, we should think of them as something that helps us on the
path of dharma. These mind training
instructions allow us to continue with whatever happens on the path to enlightenment.
Because of them, the darkness of our time is said to be like healing
nectar (Skt. amrita).
These teachings are also very precious because they are from the lineage
of Guru Serlingpa.
The Seven Points of Mind Training. These two verses at the end explain
the goodness and value of these teachings. It is said that we live in a
dark age, characterized by five kinds of degenerations: the level of philosophical
views degenerates; the afflicting emotions increase; life spans shorten,
our quality of life declines; and living beings decline physically and mentally.
In short, there is a lot of negativity during the times in which we live.
Even though the five degenerations increase, it is possible to train in
the path of enlightenment at these times. And through these instructions
on mind training, which are like the nectar of immortality, negativities
can subside. These instructions are like precious amrita. Where do they
come from? They were handed down through the Lineage from Suvarnadvipa,
meaning the “Master from Sumatra on the Golden Continent.”
The second verse demonstrates the greatness of these instructions.
The author, Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, tells how he himself went about receiving
the teachings, and what happened to him. He writes that it must be due to
the awakening of his training in a previous life that he could have trust
and a connection with such a teaching, because he did not shun any hardships
to receive them. He further states that he disregarded slander and disparagement
by others and still managed to receive and also practice these teachings
on mind training. What happened? He gained a confidence, ease, and peace
of mind to the extent that he says in the last sentence, “Now, when I die,
I’ll have no regret.” In other words, even at the time of death he has nothing
to fear; he is completely confident and has total peace of mind. Implicit
here is an injunction to the readers and to future disciples of mind training
to disregard difficulties they may have to experience in receiving these
teachings and undergoing the training. In this way, they will also gain
confidence and fearlessness even at the time of death.
The Root Text of the
Seven Points of Mind Training
The Seven Points of Mind
Training in the Mahayana
I. Preliminaries: A Basis for Dharma
1. First, train in the preliminaries
II. The Main Practice, Training
2. Regard all phenomena as dreams.
3. Investigate the nature of unborn awareness.
4. Even the antidote is released in its ground.
5. Rest within the all-basis, the essential nature.
6. In post-meditation, regard all beings as illusions.
7. Alternately practice sending and taking; these two should ride
8. Three objects, three poisons, and three roots of virtue.
9. In all your activities, train with these words.
10. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself.
III. Transforming Adverse Conditions
Path of Awakening
11. When the world is filled with negativity, transform adverse
conditions into the path of awakening.
12. Drive all blame into one.
13. Be grateful to everyone and everything.
14. Seeing delusive appearances as the four kayas is the unexcelled
protection emptiness gives.
15. The best method entails four practices.
16. Whatever you meet, instantly join it with meditation.
IV. Blending Mind with the Practice
throughout Your Life
What to Do during Your Daily Life
17. Practice the five powers, the condensed heart instructions.
What To Do at Death
18. The Mahayana instructions for
at death are the five powers; the way you behave matters.
V. How to Evaluate Your Mind Training
19. All the Buddha’s dharma converges
on a single point.
20. Of the two witnesses, attend to the principal one.
21. At all times, rely only on a joyful mind.
22. If you can practice even when distracted, you are well
VI. The Commitments of Mind Training
23. Always train in the three basic principles.
24. Change your attitude and be natural.
25. Don’t speak ill of others’ shortcomings.
26. Don’t ponder the affairs of others.
27. Work with the stronger afflictions first.
28. Send away any hope for results.
29. Avoid poisonous food.
30. Don’t be so constant.
31. Don’t get riled by critical remarks.
32. Don’t lie in ambush.
33. Don’t strike at weak points.
34. Don’t transfer a dzo’s burden onto an ox.
35. Don’t aim to be the fastest.
36. Don’t act with a twist.
37. Don’t turn gods into demons.
38. Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your happiness.
VII. Guidelines for Mind Training
39. All practices should be done with one intention.
40. One practice corrects everything.
41. At the start and finish, an activity to be done.
42. Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
43. Maintain these two, even at the risk of your life.
44. Train in the three difficult points.
45. Take up the three main causes.
46. Pay attention that these three things do not diminish.
47. Keep the three inseparable.
48. Train impartially in all areas; deep, pervasive, and constant
training is crucial.
49. Always meditate on what aggravates you.
50. Don’t be swayed by outer circumstances.
51. This time practice is central.
52. Don’t make mistakes.
53. Don’t fluctuate.
54. Train with your whole heart.
55. Free yourself through examination and analysis.
56. Don’t make a big deal about it.
57. Don’t let being irritated tie you up.
58. Don’t overreact.
59. Don’t expect a standing ovation.
essential elixir of instruction,
the five kinds of degeneration
the path of awakening,
a transmission from Serlingpa.
awakened the karmic energy of previous training
was moved by deep devotion;
ignoring suffering and criticism,
sought out instruction on how to subdue ego-fixation.
when I die, I’ll have no regret.
concluding verses are from Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, who wrote this text.
translation by Michele Martin is indebted to previous versions by Traleg
Rinpoche, the Nalanda Translation Committee, Ken McLeod, and B. Alan Wallace.
1. Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana (982-1059 C.E.) was the Indian
master who brought the lojong teachings to Tibet in 1042, when the dharma
was in decline there. Atisha was the first to combine the Wisdom, Method,
and Tantric Practice lineages of lojong, received from two Indian
yogis and >from his Indonesian master, Dharmakirti, (known to Tibetans
2. Atisha’s two Indian gurus for the lojong
transmission were Maitriyogi and Dharmarakshita. Historians generally place
his studies with the Indonesian master, Dharmakirti between the years 1012
and 1025 CE.
3. Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1101-1175 C.E.) was inspired by a
reading of Geshe Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses for Training the Mind
to produce his own commentary on that text, Seven Points of Training
of the Mind. Geshe Langri Tangpa was a direct disciple of Lama Drom
Tonpa, who was in turn Atisha’s principal disciple.
4. For a fuller explanation of these four ordinary
foundations see Thrangu Rinpoche’s The Four Foundations
of Buddhist Practice. Namo Buddha Publications, 2001.
5. Jetsun Milarepa (1052-1135 C.E.) is one of Tibet’s most beloved
saints in the Mahamudra tradition. He is said to have achieved enlightenment
in one lifetime by virtue of the trials he endured and teachings he practiced
while studying with his guru, Marpa Lotsawa.
6. The Seven-branch Practice
(Tib. yenlag dunpa) is a preliminary to most Vajrayana sadhanas and comprises: (1) making prostrations,
(2) making offerings, (3) purifying non-virtuous habits, (4) rejoicing in
the wholesome actions of others and oneself, (5) requesting the Buddhas
to teach, (6) beseeching the Buddhas not to enter paranirvana, and (7) dedicating
7. Ringsel or relics
are small round stones, usually about half the size of a pea, which can
spontaneously appear in an environment of religious activity and faith.
For example, when holy books were burned in Tibet by the Chinese, ringsel
appeared in their ashes. They also spontaneously poured out of the great
stupa in Swayambhu when His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa
visited it in 1978, as described in Women of Wisdom by Tsultrim Allione.
8. Solid objects that we can point to have color
and shape plus a beginning, duration, and end. For example, a cup comes
from clay; it is round, has a shiny glaze, and will eventually end up as
molecules of clay again scattered everywhere. The argument here is that
our mind does not have these characteristics. In particular, thoughts come
from nowhere, dwell no where, and go nowhere. So the mind is said to be
“empty,” which is a translation of the Sanskrit word shunyata. This
emptiness means that mind does not have a beginning or end, because it can
be traced through numberless lifetimes. It is this aspect of emptiness that
allows mind to change. For example, it is impossible to change a cup into
a horse, because both these objects have a relative physical existence,
but it is not hard to change anger into love, or ignorance into knowledge,
because the mind is empty. Once we have accepted that the mind is empty,
then through careful logical arguments it can be established that outer
phenomena, such as rocks and trees, are also empty. This is detailed in
Thrangu Rinpoche’s Open Door to Emptiness.
9. An advanced meditation particular to the Vajrayana
is the direct examination of mind,
often called “looking at mind.” This is taught through the “pointing out
instructions” in which the lama directly introduces the student to the nature
of his or her mind. This technique is part of Mahamudra meditation in the Kagyu lineage and the Dzogchen
meditation of the Nyingma lineage. For more details see Thrangu Rinpoche’s
Essentials of Mahamudra: Looking Directly at Mind.
10. The use of the word “nakedly” here means that
one enters a very deep state of Shamatha meditation in which one examines
mind without any conceptual activity.
This is “looking” at mind, rather than conceptually analyzing it as one
does in the analytical meditation of the Middle Way.
11. Analytical meditation is an examination of our
mind in which, upon seeing a
thought, we ask, “Where did that thought come from? Where is it now? And
where does it go?” In resting meditation we look at mind directly without
any conceptual activity and “see” what mind is like.
12. The eight consciousnesses are: the five sensory
consciousnesses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and bodily sensation.
The sixth consciousness is the mental consciousness; the seventh is the
afflicted consciousness; and the eighth is the ground or alaya consciousness.
For a fuller explanation, see Thrangu Rinpoche’s Transcending Ego: Distinguishing
Consciousness from Wisdom.
13. The four kayas are: (1) the dharmakaya, which
is dharmata, or phenomena as they are; from this manifests (2) the sambhogakaya,
which is the pure realm in which solely the Mahayana
vehicle is taught, and which can be recognized only by bodhisattvas; (3)
the nirmanakaya in which the Buddhas manifest as ordinary beings, such as
the Shakyamuni Buddha, who was born in India; and (4) the Svabhavikakaya,
which is the union of these kayas.
14. Conventional wisdom is that what is inside our
mind such as thoughts, dreams, and desires are “unreal” and that outside
phenomena such as trees and rocks and houses are “real.” Through the careful
analysis of mind and also of external phenomena using the logical arguments
of the Mahayana Madhyamaka school, it can be shown that mind and also external
phenomena are “empty” and not real and solid. Thrangu Rinpoche has explained
this extensively in other texts, such as his Open Door to Emptiness.
A Western analogy of this reasoning is that a chair appears to be solid
and real, yet a physicist will tell us that the chair is actually made of
billions of atoms which are moving at incredible speeds and these atoms
are so far apart that they are 99.99% space. The wood of the chair which
every human (but not animal) sees as “brown” is actually just radiation
of a certain frequency and the “wood” is actually composed of carbon, hydrogen,
and oxygen atoms. So when the mind sees the chair as solid and real, this
is actually an illusion created by the mind and not what the chair is really
15. The four powers are regret for one’s negative actions; the determination
not to repeat those actions; antidotes to the actions (including the generation
of bodhichitta and the recitation of mantras); and reliance on refuge in
the Buddha, dharma, and sangha.
16. The three methods are: preparation (taking refuge
and generating bodhichitta); the main part (practicing without attachment
to whatever meditative experiences may arise); and the dedication of merit
to the enlightenment of all beings.
17. Thrangu Rinpoche used Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary,
the Great Path of Awakening for these teachings.
18. One religious practice to develop merit is to
walk around a stupa, shrine, or other religious object in a clockwise fashion,
usually while saying mantras.
19. The intermediate state,
known as the bardo in Tibetan, is usually known in the West as the
state the mind goes through immediately after death
and before entering another body.
20. The Sevenfold Posture of Vairochana
involves the following points: (1) legs are crossed in vajra posture (or
however close we can come); (2) the hands rest relaxed on the knees or with
the right hand on top of the left, thumbs touching at the level of the navel;
(3) the elbows are slightly raised away from the rib cage; (4) the spine
is lengthened; (5) the chin is slightly tucked in, which lengthens the back
of the neck; (6) the mouth is closed and slightly relaxed with the tip of
the tongue touching the palate; and (7). the eyes’ gaze rests about eight
finger-widths in front of the nose.
21. The bodhisattva vow is the Mahayana
pledge to help all living beings attain enlightenment. The tantric vows are Vajrayana vows and are specific to whichever Vajrayana practice
one is doing, such as reciting certain prayers or mantras every day. These
are detailed in Thrangu Rinpoche’s The Tibetan Vinaya. Namo Buddha
22. This is somewhat cultural. In the Far East,
including India, Tibet, China, and Japan there are numerous stories of humans
who have inadvertently disturbed the nagas and the protectors of a place and as a result have
suffered from diseases.
alaya consciousness (Tib. kunzhi namshe)
According to the Chittamatra or Yogachara school this is the eighth consciousness
and is often called the ground consciousness or store-house consciousness.
See consciousnesses, eight.
(Tib. dutsi) A blessed substance which can cause spiritual and physical
analytical meditation In the sutra tradition one begins by listening
to the teachings, or studying the dharma. Then one contemplates this dharma through analytical
insight which is accomplished by placing the mind in Shamatha and focusing one-pointedly on these
concepts. Finally, there is actual meditation which is free from concept.
A fourth century Indian philosopher who founded the Chittamatra (Mind-only)
school, and wrote the five treatises transmitted to him by the Maitreya
Bodhisattva, considered crucial within the Mahayana
vehicle. His brother was the scholar Vasubhandu.
Atisha (982-1059 C.E.) Buddhist scholar at Vikramashila
University, India, who came to Tibet at the invitation of King Yeshe Ö to
overcome the damage done to Buddhism by the King Langdarma. With the help
of his student Dromtonpa, he founded the Kadampa tradition. His most famous work is The Lamp
for the Path of Enlightenment.
means “interval.” There are six kinds of bardos, but this refers to the
time between death and rebirth
in a new body.
blessing When an individual has great devotion,
he or she is able to “tap into” or receive the blessings or energy created
by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The blessings of the lineage are always
there, but can only be received if one makes oneself receptive to them so
they are not something externally bestowed by more enlightened beings.
bodhichitta Literally, the “mind
of enlightenment.” There are two kinds of bodhichitta: ultimate bodhichitta, which is completely awakened mind that sees the
emptiness of phenomena, and relative bodhichitta, which is the aspiration to practice the six paramitas
and free all beings from the suffering of samsara.
bodhisattva Literally, “one who exhibits the mind of enlightenment.” Also, an individual who is committed
to the Mahayana path of practicing compassion and the six paramitas
in order to achieve Buddhahood and free all beings from samsara. More specifically,
the term refers to those motivated to achieve liberation from samsara, who
are on one of the ten bodhisattva levels, which culminate in Buddhahood.
bodhisattva vow The promise to practice in order to bring all other living beings
A pre-Buddhist religion still practiced in Tibet.
A Hindu of the highest caste who usually performs the priestly functions.
Buddha nature (Skt. tathagatagarbha, Tib. deshin shekpay
nyingpo) The original nature present in all beings which, when realized,
leads to enlightenment. It is also often called Buddha-nature.
Buddha Shakyamuni Shakyamuni Buddha, often called Gautama Buddha,
refers to the fourth and most recent Buddha of this eon, who lived sometime
between 563 and 483 B.C.E.
Buddhadharma The teachings of the Buddha.
Chenrezig (Skt. Avalokiteshvara) Deity of boundless
chö means “to cut off,” referring to a practice that
is designed to cut off all ego involvement and defilements. The practice
was founded by the famous yogini, Machig Labdron (1031 to 1139 C.E.).
(Tib. selwa) Also translated as “luminosity” or “radiant clarity.”
The nature of mind is that it
is empty of inherent existence. But it is not just voidness, because it
has clarity, which is the awareness or knowing aspect of the mind. The Clarity
and emptiness of mind’s nature are inseparable.
compassion (Skt. karuna, Tib. nyingje) In Buddhist terms this is
the impartial desire for the liberation of all living beings. This feeling
can only be developed with extensive meditation and an understanding of
the Buddhist path.
These are the five sensory consciousnesses of sight, hearing, smell, taste,
touch, and body sensation. The sixth consciousness is mental consciousness
which does our ordinary thinking. The seventh consciousness is afflicted
(klesha) consciousness which is the ever-present feeling of “I.” Finally,
the eighth consciousness is the ground (or alaya) consciousness which holds
the other consciousnesses together and also stores karmic latencies.
(Tib. kundzop) There are two truths: the conventional, or relative,
and the ultimate. Relative truth is how an ordinary (unenlightened) person
perceives the world, with all of his or her projections based on a false
belief in self.
conditioned existence (Skt. samsara) Ordinary existence which
contains suffering because one still possesses attachment, aggression, and
ignorance. Its opposite is liberation or nirvana.
A yogini who has attained high realizations of the fully enlightened mind.
She may be a human being who has achieved such attainments or a non-human
manifestation of the enlightened mind of a meditational deity.
This has two main meanings: any truth, such as that the sky is blue, or,
as used in this text, the teachings of the Buddha (also called Buddhadharma).
dharmadhatu The all-encompassing, beginningless space, out of which all phenomena
arise. The Sanskrit means “the essence of phenomena” and the Tibetan means
“the expanse of phenomena,” but usually it refers to the emptiness which
is the essential nature of phenomena.
disturbing emotion (Skt. klesha) The emotional obscurations
(in contrast to intellectual obscurations) which are also translated as
“afflictions” or “poisons.” The three main kleshas are passion or attachment;
aggression or anger; and ignorance or delusion. The five kleshas include
the three above, plus pride, envy, or jealousy.
(Tib.) A cross-breed between a yak and a cow.
Dzogchen (Skt. mahasandhi) Also known as the “great
perfection,” the highest form of meditation of the nine yanas according
to the Nyingma tradition. It is a meditation on examining mind
four ordinary foundations
These are the four thoughts that turn the mind.
They are reflection on precious human birth, impermanence and the inevitability
of death, karma and its effects, and the pervasiveness of
suffering in samsara.
four thoughts that turn the mind
These are: the preciousness of human birth; the impermanence of life; the
faults of samsara; and karma, the sequencing of cause and effect: the fact
that pleasure and suffering result from positive and negative actions.
Gampopa (1079-1153 C.E.) One of the main holders of the Kagyu lineage in
Tibet. A student of Milarepa who established the first Kagyu monastery. His
best-known text is The Jewel Ornament of Liberation.
A scholar who has attained a doctorate in Buddhist studies. This usually
takes fifteen to twenty years.
god realm See realms, six
ground consciousness or alaya consciousness, t the eighth consciousness which has the function of storing all the
latent karmic imprints of experience.
hell realm See realms of samsara.
Hinayana Literally, the “lesser vehicle.” This term refers
to the first teachings of the Buddha which emphasized the careful examination
of mind and its confusion. Also known as the Theravada,
or foundational, path.
hungry ghost (Skt. preta, Tib. yidak) A type of being who is always
starving and thirsty as a result of excessive greed in previous lifetimes.
Pretas are depicted as having enormous stomachs and thin throats. See the
realms of samsara.
initiation or empowerment (Tib. wong, Skt. abhisheka) To
perform Vajrayana practice, one must receive the empowerment from
a qualified lama. One should also receive the practice instruction (Tib.
tri) and the textual reading transmission (Tib. lung).
Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899 C.E.) Also known as Lodro Thaye. He was best known for
founding the rime movement, a non-sectarian, eclectic movement which preserved
various practice lineages that were on the verge of extinction. He is famous
as the author of the Five Treasuries.
jealous god See realms, six
Kadampa One of the major schools in Tibet, founded by Atisha.
One of the four major schools of Buddhism in Tibet. It was founded by Marpa
and is headed by His Holiness Karmapa. The other three are the Nyingma, Sakya, and Geluk
Literally “action.” Karma is a principle of cause and effect: when one performs
a wholesome action, one’s circumstances will improve, and when one performs
an unwholesome action, negative results will eventually occur.
kayas, three There are three bodies, or dimensions, of the Buddha: the dharmakaya,
sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. The dharmakaya, also called the “truth body,”
is the complete enlightenment, or complete wisdom of the Buddha with this
realm being un-originated, beyond form, and manifests in the sambhogakaya
and the nirmanakaya. The sambhogakaya, also called the “enjoyment body,”
manifests only to bodhisattvas on the eighth, ninth, and tenth bodhisattva
levels. The nirmanakaya, known as the “emanation body,” manifests in the
world as a human beings such as the Shakyamuni Buddha.
There are two approaches to the spiritual path: one is to study the Buddhist
texts extensively and is called the path of the scholar (pandita), and the
other is to meditate directly with little study and is called the path of
the kusulu (simple meditator).
(Skt. guru) A spiritual teacher.
loving-kindness (Skt. maitri, Tib. jampa) The wish that all beings have
luminosity (Tib. selwa) In the Buddha’s third turning of the wheel of
dharma everything is empty, but
this emptiness is not a blank state because it is inseparable >from luminosity.
Luminosity, also called clarity, points to the mind’s ability to know and
luminous clarity See luminosity.
Mahamudra Literally, “great seal,” meaning that all phenomena
are sealed by the primordially and perfectly true nature. This form of meditation
is traced back to Saraha (8th century) and was passed down in the Kagyu
School through Marpa. It emphasizes perceiving mind directly rather than
through rationalistic analysis.
Literally, the “great vehicle.” These are the teachings of the second turning
of the wheel of dharma, which emphasize emptiness, compassion, and universal
Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097 C.E.) One of the founders of the Kagyu lineage in Tibet,
who made three trips to India to study and bring back tantric texts, including
the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Guhyasamaja, and the Chakrasamvara practices.
His teacher was Tilopa, and his chief student, Milarepa.
(Tib. tsa) Subtle channels through which the subtle energies (Skt.
A water spirit which may take the form of a serpent. Nagas are often the
custodians of treasures, so they keep texts or actual material treasures
Naropa (1016-1100 C.E.) An Indian master who is best known for transmitting many Vajrayana
teachings, in particular the Six Yogas of Naropa to Marpa, who took these
back to Tibet prior to the Moslem invasion of India.
for “preliminary practice.” One usually begins the Vajrayana path by doing
the four preliminary practices which involve doing 100,000 refuge prayers
and prostrations, and the same number of Vajrasattva mantras, mandala offerings,
and guru yoga practices.
ngak) Sometimes called the quintessential or pith instructions.
These are instructions given directly from guru to student concerning meditation
and the nature of mind. While some of these are written down, many are passed
pandita A great scholar.
here, there are two kinds of meditation: the analytical meditation of the
pandita (or scholar), which involves conceptual analysis of phenomena, and
the placement meditation of the kusulu (or simple meditator), which involves
simply relaxing the mind and examining what is there without engaging in
any conceptual or analytical activity.
precious nectar or amrita (Tib. dutsi) A blessed substance which can
cause spiritual and physical healing.
pure realm Realms created by Buddhas which are totally free from suffering, and
in which dharma can be received directly. These realms are presided over
by various Buddhas such as Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya.
realms of samsara,
are the possible types of rebirths for beings in samsara: the god realm,
in which gods have great pride; the asura realm in which the jealous gods
try to maintain what they have; the human realm which is the best realm
because one has the possibility of achieving enlightenment; the animal realm
characterized by stupidity; the hungry ghost realm characterized by great
craving; and the hell realm characterized by aggression.
Literally, “very precious,” used as a term of respect for a Tibetan guru.
root guru A teacher from whom one has received the instructions and empowerments
that form the core of one’s practice.
(Tib. damtsig) The Vajrayana vows or commitments made to a teacher
Conditioned existence of ordinary life in which suffering occurs because
one still possesses attachment, aggression, and ignorance. Its opposite
Serlingpa Serlingpa Dharmakirti was Atisha’s main teacher and source for the
teachings on mind training.
seven branch prayer
The seven branch practice is (1) prostrating to the three jewels, (2) confessing
negative actions, (3) making offering, (4) rejoicing in the virtue of others,
(5) requesting to turn the wheel of dharma, (6) beseeching the lama not
to pass into nirvana, and (7) dedicating the merit to the enlightenment
of all living beings.
seven points of
posture involves seven key points: (1) legs are crossed in vajra posture
(or however close we can come); (2) the hands rest relaxed on the knees
or with the right hand on top of the left, thumbs touching at the level
of the navel; (3) the elbows are slightly raised away from the rib cage;
(4) the spine is lengthened; (5) the chin is slightly tucked in, which lengthens
the back of the neck; (6) the mouth is closed and slightly relaxed with
the tip of the tongue touching the palate; and (7).
or tranquility meditation (Tib. shinay) A basic meditation
in which, while sitting cross-legged, one follows the breath and observes
the workings of the mind. The main purpose of Shamatha meditation is to
settle or tame the mind so that it will stay where one places it.
sangha These are the companions on the path. The word
may refer to anyone on the path, or to the noble sangha, who are realized
Shantideva (675-725 C.E.) A great Bodhisattva who lived in the 7th and 8th centuries in India,
and was known for his two works on bodhisattva conduct.
sending and taking
(Tib. tonglen) A meditation practice promulgated by Atisha in which
the practitioner takes on the negative conditions of others and gives out
all that is positive.
six realms of samsara See realms of samsara.
six tastes These are sweet, sour, bitter,
astringent, hot, and salty.
A dome-shaped monument to the Buddha which often contains relics and remains
of the Buddha or great Bodhisattvas.
subtle channels (Skt. nadi, Tib. tsa). These refer to the subtle channels through which
the psychic energies or “winds” (Skt. prana, Tib. lung) travel.
They correspond only loosely to the body’s physical veins and arteries.
Usually translated as “emptiness.” In the second turning of the wheel of
dharma, the Buddha taught that external phenomena and internal phenomena,
or the concept of self or “I,” have no real existence and are therefore
sugatagarbha (Tib. desheg nyingpo) “The heart of the one gone to bliss”
refers to that enlightened and joyous nature present in all beings.
One can divide Tibetan Buddhism into the sutra tradition and the tantra
tradition. The sutra tradition primarily involves the academic study of
the Mahayana sutras, while the tantric path primarily involves the practice
of Vajrayana. The tantras are primarily the texts of the Vajrayana practices.
tathagatagarbha (Tib. deshin shekpai nyingpo) The very heart of the tathagatas,
which is usually translated as Buddha nature. It is the seed or potential
of enlightenment possessed by all living beings, which allows them to attain
torma A ritual object made of dried barley and butter,
placed on a shrine as a symbolic offering to the deities.
two truths Relative, or conventional, truth is the world as we normally experience
it with seemingly solid objects; the ultimate, or absolute, truth points
to the empty and luminous nature of all phenomena..
ultimate truth (Tib. dondam) The ultimate truth, also called
absolute truth, can only be perceived by an enlightened individual is that
all phenomena, both internal (thoughts and feelings) and external (the outside
world) do not have any inherent existence.
Vajradhara (Tib. Dorje Chang) The name of the dharmakaya
Buddha. Many of the teachings of the Kagyu lineage came from Vajradhara.
Vajrayana There are three major vehicles of Buddhism: Hinayana,
Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The
Vajrayana is based on the tantras, emphasizes the clarity aspect of phenomena,
and is mainly practiced in Tibet.
Vasubhandu A great fourth-century Indian scholar, the brother of Asanga, who
wrote the Abhidharmakosha, explaining the Abhidharma.
These are the teachings by the Buddha concerning proper conduct, the vows,
and community life.
yidam A tantric meditation deity that embodies the qualities
of Buddhahood and is practiced in the Vajrayana.
Glossary of Tibetan
bar do interval
spyan ras gzigs Avalokiteshvara
wa gye dal ba brgyad eight freedoms
dam tshig samaya
nyingpo de gshegs snying po Buddha nature
denpa don dam pai’ bden pa ultimate truth
Chang rdo rje chang Vajradhara
bdud rtsi amrita
mdzo yak and cow
rdzogs pa chen po Great Perfection
dge bshes geshe
byams pa loving-kindness
wa chu ‘byor ba chu ten freedoms
bka’ gdams pa Kadampa
bka’ brgyud Kagyu
‘khor ba samsara
kun rdzob relative truth
namshe kun gzhi’ rnam shes alaya consciousness
yeshe kun gzhi’ ye shes alaya wisdom
bla ma lama
blo sbyong mind training
men ngak man
ngag pith instructions
sngon’gro preliminary practice nyingje snying
mong nyon mongs disturbing emotions
rin po che precious one
gsal ba luminosity
bshad grwa monastic college
gzhi gnas Shamatha
thang ka scroll painting
chenpo theg pa chen po Mahayana
chungwa theg pa chung ba Hinayana
‘khrid practice instructions
gtong len taking and sending
gtor ma torma
rtsa subtle channels
lama rtsa ba’i bla ma root guru
yi dvags hungry ghost
dunpa yan lag bdun pa 7 branch prayer
yi dam yidam
Tsultrim. Women of Wisdom. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984
The Wheel of Sharp Weapons (Tib. mtshon cha’khor lo) Dharamsala:
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1976.
The Benevolent Mind: A Manual in Mind Training. Auckland, New Zealand:
Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Publications, 2003.
Translated by Ken McLeod. The Great Path of Awakening: A Commentary on
the Mahayana Teaching of the Seven Points of Mind Training. Boston: Shambhala, 1987.
Patrul Rinpoche. Words of My Perfect Teacher. Translated by the Padmakara Translation
Group. San Francisco: Harper-Collins Publisher, 1994.
Pel, Namkha. Translated
by Brian Beresford. Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun. Dharamsala:
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1992.
Rabten, Geshe, and Geshe Dhargyey. Translated by Brian
Beresford. Advice from a Spiritual Friend. Boston: Wisdom Publications,
Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse. Translated by the Padmakara Translation
Group. Enlightened Courage. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1993.
Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Skt. Bodhicharyavatara)
(Tib. byang chub sems dpa’i spyod pa la’jug pa). The root verses
translated by Marion Matric and commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche. Namo Buddha
Four Foundations of Buddhist Practice. Crestone: Namo Buddha Publications,
Open Door to Emptiness. Karme Theckchen Choling.1997.
Transcending Ego: Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom. Crestone:
Namo Buddha Pub-lications, 2001.
The Tibetan Vinaya. Namo Buddha Publications, 1990.
Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness. Boston: Shambhala
Gomo. Translated by Joan Nicell. Becoming a Child of the Buddhas.
Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998.
Wallace, B. Alan. Buddhism with an Attitude, Ithaca:
Snow Lion Publications, 2001.
B. The Seven-Point Mind Training, Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications,
23, 53, 79, 135
Advice from a
Spiritual Friend, 7
alaya, 31, 134
Atisha, 13, 20, 21,
117, 129, 134, 138
blessings, 13, 14,
15, 23, 77
bodhichitta, v, 6,
15, 18, 23, 31, 33, 35, 47, 52, 53, 56, 69, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 77,
78, 79, 80, 81, 89, 112, 135
23, 48, 135
breath, 14, 15, 23,
Chekawa, 7, 129
Chenrezig, 44, 135
chod, 58, 63, 136
death, 17, 65, 68,
76, 78, 79, 81, 82, 133, 134, 137
Dharma, 6, 8, 129,
62, 69, 76, 96, 98, 110, 115, 117, 119
dream, 26, 27, 28,
Eight Verses for
Training the Mind, 129
five powers, 68,
75, 76, 81
four ordinary foundations,
15, 129, 137
four powers, 55,
75, 76, 132
Gampopa, 13, 20,
21, 117, 137
Great Path of
Awakening Mind, 29
healing nectar, 119
Hinayana, 83, 138,
bardo) teachings, 82
78, 80, 133, 138
Kadampa, 80, 134,
Karmapa, 130, 139
lo jong, 129
Mahamudra, 6, 26,
117, 118, 129, 131, 139
Mahayana, 5, 83,
111, 132, 133, 134, 135, 144
Milarepa, 16, 21,
117, 129, 137
nagas, 62, 133
non-humans, 56, 93
relics, 21, 130
root guru, 13
sangha, 103, 142
sending and taking
meditation, 37, 42
Serlingpa, 119, 129
of Vairocana, 80, 133
Shantideva, 28, 50,
sphere of reality,
subtle channel, 80
taking and sending,
tantric vows, 92,
Tara practice,, 45
The Wheel of Sharp
three methods, 56
torma, 56, 57, 62,
ultimate truth, 6,
Vajradhara, 20, 144
129, 130, 133, 138, 144
Vajrayana vows, 110
wisdom air, 80
Women of Wisdom, 130
About the Author
Thrangu Rinpoche was born in
Kham in 1933. At the age of five he was formally recognized by the Sixteenth
Karmapa and the previous Situ Rinpoche as the incarnation of the great Thrangu
tulku. Entering Thrangu monastery, from the ages of seven to sixteen he
studied reading, writing, grammar, poetry, and astrology, memorized ritual
texts, and completed two preliminary retreats. At sixteen under the direction
of Khenpo Lodro Rabsel he began the study of the three vehicles of Buddhism
while staying in retreat.
At twenty-three he received
full ordination from the Karmapa. When he was twenty-seven Rinpoche left
Tibet for India at the time of the Chinese military takeover. He was called
to Rumtek, Sikkim, where the Karmapa had his seat in exile. At thirty-five
he took the geshe examination before 1500 monks at Buxador monastic refugee
camp in Bengal, and was awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa. On his return
to Rumtek he was named Abbot of Rumtek monastery and the Nalanda Institute
for Higher Buddhist studies at Rumtek. He has been the personal teacher
of the four principal Karma Kagyu tulkus: Shamar Rinpoche, Situ Rinpoche,
Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Gyaltsab Rinpoche.
Thrangu Rinpoche has traveled
extensively through-out Europe, the Far East and the USA and is the abbot
of Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1984 he spent several months in
Tibet where he ordained over 100 monks and nuns and visited several monasteries.
In Nepal Rinpoche has also founded a monastery, Thrangu Tashi Choling in
Bodhanath, a retreat center and college at Namo Buddha, east of the Katmandu
Valley, and has established a school in Bodhanath for the general education
of lay children and young monks. He also has built in Katmandu Tara Abbey
offering a full dharma education for nuns. He has also completed a beautiful
monastery in Sarnath, India a few minutes walking distance from where the
Buddha gave his first teaching on the Four Noble Truths.
Thrangu Rinpoche has given teachings
in over 25 countries and is especially known for taking complex teachings
and making them accessible to Western students. Thrangu Rinpoche is a recognized
master of Mahamudra meditation.
More recently, because of his
vast knowledge of the Dharma, he was appointed by His Holiness the Dalai
Lama to be the personal tutor for the 17th Karmapa.
Thrangu Rinpoche has centers
in India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, England,
Germany, United States, and Canada. For more information on his activities,
yearly teachings, and centers, please visit his website:
Namo Buddha Publications is dedicated
to propagate the teachings of Thrangu Rinpoche and is now located at the
Vajra Vidya Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado (about four hours drive
from Denver). For more information on the 28 books of Thrangu Rinpoche in
English visit: www.NamoBuddhaPub.org.