20. Training the Mind


Training the Mind

By H.H. Rimay Gyalten Rinpoche

When it comes to talking about training the mind, there are unfortunately many obstacles that can delay our progress on the Path. Many disciples want to train their mind and always ask the Guru about the best methods to achieve this. The good news is that, by looking at and observing the mind directly, a disciple can come to know their mind. When you know your mind, you can train your mind. Until then the mind is like a wild horse and you are like its blind rider.

The problem is the mind has so many habitual tendencies, and the student tends to strongly cling to these old negative habits.  This makes it very difficult or tough for them to train the mind. The heavy or stubborn mind needs to become flexible and virtuous, in order to advance successfully on the Spiritual or Dharma path. When the students reflect upon their own mind honestly and with impartiality, he or she will see the habits or circles that they are entertaining in their mind. From there, the student can apply the Guru’s advice thoughtfully and get a clearer understanding of what needs to be corrected or changed.

Of course the Guru also wants the disciples to train their mind, but this is very difficult in the western or popular modern world, because there are so many distractions! The popular modern world is very much filled with a culture that ignores impermanence and death, not until it is happening right before one’s eyes or even in person. And then, because the mind is in an untrained state, any negative and sad things happen will create a lot of suffering. So by bringing the contemplation of death and impermanence into our mind-stream and consciousness, we can begin to train our mind.

All sentient beings have Buddha Nature, and that is why we can say that Buddha lives inside each and every one of us. That is true, but always be a little bit open or sceptical if someone tells you that you are Green Tara, an Angel or  Milarepa,  etc…be aware! Don’t accept anybody’s teachings or advices blindly, do the investigation yourself.  Perhaps that person or Master is just trying to manipulate or confuse you. Perhaps they want something from you and that’s why they are flattering you. It might not be their honest opinion and it might just make your pride and ego become worse! That just becomes another obstacle to achieving true realization and attaining real wisdom. As long as the student follows the popular modern world, he or she will always wonder who they are. It is in the interest of Samsara or materialism to keep its actors involved in such a mystery. When we renounce the Samsara, that is the popular modern world and follow the Dharma, then we will know who we are, and can truly put the teachings into action.

If the Guru really cares about the disciples, then he or she would try to reduce the suffering that comes from too much pride and ego. The disciples’ homework is to really look at their own mind, to police their own mind and see for themselves that their pride and ego really do exist and work on it themselves. And then they will know how subtle or deep the pride and ego go, and with the advice from an authentic Guru, they can apply the right Dharma to that particular condition or Mara that needs to be corrected or eradicated.

The student or disciple needs to let go of his or her attachment to the old and ignorant ways of thinking, speaking and behaving. And then the Guru can really be of some personal and spiritual help. It is difficult, yes, I believe that. But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Everything worth achieving is worth the effort. If it is mixing our mind with Dharma and reaching enlightenment is what we want to achieve, then we have to listen to the Gurus. This is because the teachings of Dharma that come from a qualified Guru are the same teachings that the Buddha Shakymuni taught when He started turning the Wheel of Dharma over 2,500 years ago. A qualified Guru has received the unbroken transmission of enlightened teachings, and he or she is passing them on to you. So if you want to achieve enlightenment, you follow the Guru’s teachings. But before we can follow the Guru’s advice, we need to turn off the channel of the popular modern world. That is the heart of renunciation and really just to say “No.”  When the student cooperates with the Guru, everything that was difficult will become easy, but this takes time. When we follow the Guru’s instruction with faith and devotion, time will work for us as a helper that will eventually remove obstacles.

Another problem is that, it seems in our society the disciples always want to control the Guru. In Traditional Tibetan Buddhist society, and especially in the Monastery, it is the guru that is in charge of the disciple and not the other way around! It is the pride of this modern society that creates this situation. Until the student can conquer his or her pride, very little progress can be made in the Dharma. Pride is worse than the worst. It is worse than a hungry ghost.

It is okay and I do understand, but that makes it a little difficult for the Guru to do his job if the disciples are unwilling to know about their shortcomings. So the disciples must look at their own mind and condition before looking at others. The pride sees what is wrong with others first, it just can’t look at itself. And that’s what the Dharma is for; it is serious looking, serious contemplating and serious thinking about your own faults before judging someone else. And somehow, that’s where all the fun is. But pride surely does not like to think of it that way.

If the Guru were to point out the individual’s mistakes, faults or delusions, or if the Guru uses tough words and tries to wake the sentient being up, then the disciple would not be able to handle it! They would want to get away from that master or teacher because they could not stand the heat! This is why the Guru rarely has the chance to train the disciple’s mind, and this is also why the Guru cannot give high teachings such as Mahamudra and others. We are still too weak and still too full of pride!

If the Guru tries to point out the student’s or disciple’s problem or negative habits, the student’s pride is so hurt that they just cannot handle it at all! It makes them very uncomfortable. They may even think, ‘My Guru likes some people better than others.  He only likes beautiful people or wealthy people.’ This is a difficult situation, because it means that the student does not trust the Guru. We should never have jealousy towards our Sangha brothers and sisters, just because they appear to be getting more attention from our Guru. 

This is wrong thinking and only creates more obstacles and ignorance! Of course the Guru has limitless wisdom, compassion, and equanimity!! If the guru does not have these qualities we would not follow that Guru. So if the Guru seems to be spending more time, attention and resources on other beings, then reflect on his limitless equanimity, and remember that he or she is acting with the ultimate realization of skilful means.

It is very important to be aware and do the proper investigation, but once you know who your Guru is and decided to follow that Guru, then you should try to be strong and stick with him or her. Be attentive and listen with an open mind to the teachings and this will lead to awareness and wisdom. And awareness and wisdom will lead to skill, and skill will lead to prosperity of body and mind. When we have prosperity of body and mind, we will have happiness. These things require faith and devotion in the Guru.

If you really want to train your mind, then you have to be able to handle a little heat from time to time. The Guru is only trying to burn up a little of your negative karma and negative habits, so that when you finish with this life, the transition will be smooth and easy. So when things are getting too hot, that is the time to really look at your own mind rather than criticize the Guru. That is the time for practicing how to let go of our own thoughts and habits.

If you are really serious about wanting to train the mind, and you want to learn more about the Guru-Disciple relationship, I strongly recommend that you read and study the life stories of Milarepa, Naropa, Gampopa or your Guru Gyalten Rinpoche. Then you will understand more about how to train the mind and how to listen to and follow the point-out instructions of your Guru. By reading about the complete trust that these beings had in their Gurus, then hopefully the student will be able to overcome a few of his or her own doubts. Doubts, you know, are the main obstacle upon the path.

By learning more about the life stories of these great Masters, you might get some ideas, enthusiasm and willingness to increase your wisdom. In this way you can hopefully get the proper training, and not be delayed on your Spiritual journey or Dharma Path.

You see, in Vajrayana Buddhism, the Guru is everything! Buddha Shakyamuni taught the pure and perfect path to reach enlightenment, and 2,600 years later here we are still listening to his wisdom and trying to follow in his footsteps to the best of our ability. This unbroken lineage of teachings requires faith and devotion towards the Guru, and renunciation towards the popular modern world. Without renunciation, any teaching the student receives will have very little benefit.

I always feel tremendous gratitude for the blessings and teachings my Gurus gave to me…especially the ones that taught me to train my mind and helped me to remove any trace of negativity or bad karma!

So good luck on your enlightenment journey, and please always enjoy this precious Guru-Disciple relationship. This is incredibly auspicious good karma, and I hope you really appreciate it and put the blessings to good use! The more we look at our thoughts, the more we will see our mind, and the more we see our mind, and the more we study Dharma, the more Dharma will mix with our mind.


                                    Training the mind


Since beginning less time, because of our stubbornness and ignorance,

Lifetime after lifetime, experiencing the never-ending suffering of the six realms,

Over and over again, we have been wandering in Samsara.


The grasping at or belief in a permanent “self”, bound by concepts,

Driven by the habitual tendencies, following the six poisons,

Our delusive perception of discrimination and duality has confused our judgement.


We think we are the best and most worthy,

The most important and the most special,

We think others are the ones who create obstacles for us,

Take away our advantages and we fail to see our own faults


When we look around, we see everybody busy building their own castle,

The fortified shelter seems indestructible and a false security arises

That seems to protect the “self”,

We then become trapped forever in the prison of our own ignorance and delusion.

We feel nobody cares about our pain and we are helplessly caught in the jaws of Mara

Until we are fortunate enough to meet our guide to be released from misery, our compassionate Guru!


In order to liberate ourselves and sentient beings from the endless suffering of cyclic existence

We need to re-train our mind and

Change our mind that is always upset and negative into a happy mind that is positive and without limit.

The job is to transform a dark and ignorant mind into a wisdom awareness mind full of light.

Our stubborn mind is the only creator for our suffering,

But we are never aware about that truth!

Instead, we always think we are the victim of others’ wrong doing,

We never accept that we are in fact the one who needs to change!


The Guru sees through our mind

And, through His great compassion, clearly knows where our problem is

And what our weaknesses are.

In the present as well as in the long run,

The direct advice and pointing-out instructions He gives us are always

The best solutions to our problems and will lead us toward liberation.

The Guru’s guidance is the only way to train our mind and an unbeatable way to transform our mind,

But we don’t realize this; we don’t know we are already holding a wish fulfilling jewel in our hand,

But without the proper motivation, strong faith, devotion and total trust,

We found the Guru’s teachings too dry, too boring,

We found the Guru’s pointing-out instruction too hard to follow, or too harsh and too personal,

We found the Guru’s advice too raw, too invasive and too embarrassing to take.

What a pity for stubborn beings like us, held prisoner by our own pride,

We wander endlessly looking for freedom in the outer realms

When the truth is, real liberation is to be found inside of us—

    and Guru is the one who is pointing out the ways from his experience and with his loving-kindness

But we cannot follow because we remain distracted by Samsara’s show,

All the bells and whistles of the material society have us totally hypnotized and being deluded!


It is because we are still clinging onto and believing in the ego,

We have forgotten to remember that we think we are somehow more special and different than everyone else,

And this is because the Six Poisons still dominate our mind and control our actions,

We are really like puppets and machines, like robots dancing mindlessly,

We are so busy thinking for ourselves that we forget about how everybody else is doing,

And that is why we always struggle to bring compassion into action.


The Guru has travelled the path and can show us the way

But we must put forth the effort to complete at least this much:

Look at our own actions seriously before criticizing someone else’s, even mentally.

And in the meantime, if we say as many mantras as sincerely and open-heartedly as we can,

I think we will begin to make our way out of the dark, so to speak, if you know what I mean.


Yet, without proper mind training, our ego is hurt, we try to stay away from or argue with the Guru,

And, yet, without the warmth of the Guru’s presence we easily lose the interest to continue practice.

And then it is like we are out in the cold.

Without the trust and openness to accept our faults,

We can never break our habitual tendency of self protection,

And we never learn that the self is the ultimate illusion to let go.

Without opening our mind and accepting new ideas and advices,

We never see beyond the horizon of the worldly limit of our feelings and perceptions.


Only our Guru is pure enough, brave enough and unbiased enough to address our hidden faults,

Only He has enough skill and wisdom to reflect our faults and handle them with compassion.


There are 84000 kinds of emotional affliction and obstacles,

But there are 84000 ways to conquer them,

If we learn to understand and conquer just one fault,

We can learn and understand how to conquer all of our faults.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

And that first step in Vajrayana or Secret mantra Buddhism is Trust in the Teacher.


As long as we are aware of our problems,

Start training our mind to eliminate them, there will always be hope!

Yet our mind is so tough and heavily stained, our will is weak,

And the transformation journey is long,

We need a lot of effort, devotion, and willingness to start,

We need a lot of self discipline, patience, diligence and perseverance to carry through,

Training our tough mind that is stained with negative imprints over many life times

Is not an easy job!


We might need many life times to clean up and re-train it,

But if enlightenment is what we really need,

In order to liberate all being from the endless suffering of Samsaric realms,

It is worthwhile to give it a try!

This Human life is so rare and auspicious; we should at least accomplish a little good with it,

And bodhichitta is the start of something good.


The crucial key to enlightenment is still our precious Guru, he has perfected every good quality.

We need to see our Guru as Buddha with the all knowing nature of wisdom and compassion,

We need to open our heart and mind, make them big, renounce our ego and let go of our “self-centeredness”.

Those who feel uncomfortable or bothered by the Guru’s advice, speech and action,

Are those who actually feel uncomfortable and bothered by their own ego and self.

The Guru is just like a mirror except no dust will ever settle on Him.


Obsession with one’s own comfort of mind at the expense of others is not compassion,

Obsession with one’s neurotic control at the expense of other’s freedom is definitely not wisdom.

There is never any excuse to be selfish when we can be generous!


We will never be liberated from our concepts if we don’t let them go.

Of course we can have our freedom to follow Guru’s instruction or not,

But if we fail to recognise the compassion of our Guru,

Then our Guru and disciple relationship is just a show!!


We have the Accomplished Ones from the past to show us the astonishing and miraculous result;

Milarepa passed the test of unwavering faith and devotion

Under the great humiliation and physical torture of Marpa;

And Milarepa’s realizations are still with us today, thanks to the Gurus

Who, in their compassion and wisdom, have perfectly preserved the tradition.

Naropa passed the test of total trust and respect,

Surrendered his life, intellectual concepts and learned wisdom into the hands of Tilopa.

When we say we want the Guru to give us transmissions, empowerments or blessings,

It actually means we need to totally open our heart and mind,

Allow the Guru to do whatever a Buddha will do to us,

Allow the Guru to exercise his wisdom and compassion on us,

Guru Rinpoche said:

“The faith of total trust allows all blessings to enter us,

    when the mind is free of doubt whatever we wish for can be achieved!”


Even though our Guru’s compassion is boundless, his patience is limitless

And his wisdom and skilful means are immeasurable,

In order to train our mind, 

We have to be ready for anything, expect nothing, think about nothing,

And have trust in our Guru like a child has trust in his or her mother! It will be a good start!!

This is the best way to train our mind!!! I guarantee it. If it does not work you can always blame me.


And if that does not work, hang out,

And if that does not work, hang loose,

And if that does not work maybe you should not hang around.

Ha Ha Ha and E Ma Ho!!!

Thank you!!!



Training the Mind


Until we discover the need to train our mind with Dharma, any attempt at spiritual progress will be very limited and ineffective. Right now our mind is the mind that tied to samsara. We are fettered or attached to everything worldly. Our concerns remain relative; we busy ourselves with preferences for pleasure over pain, gain over loss, praise over criticism and fame over infamy. As long as our mind remains so concerned and attached to worldly ambitions, hopes and fears, there will not be any chance of escaping from samsara.


Maybe we go for a short retreat and receive some teachings that lift our mood and seem to break the spell of samsara, but soon we feel samsara’s claws reaching back into us and we are up to our old habits once more. We wonder why this is. This is because we have not made ourselves a fit vessel to receive the teachings, and bring them into fruition in our daily lives! It is because we have not taken death and impermanence to heart! We still believe we are different from others, and somehow we will not have to suffer the dissolution of our life and mind, like every other sentient being does since time without beginning.


Without taking death and impermanence to heart, the Dharma will never mix appropriately with our mind. We may have memorized many teachings and can impress our brothers and sisters with some fancy and witty talk.  But without true understanding of death and impermanence and that we are part of it, our Dharma talk is just that…talk.


It is our own responsibility to become fit vessels for the teachings we hope to practice and develop and grow from. We should not be like a pot with a hole in it, just listening to the teachings and then forgetting them. Nor should we be like a pot that is upside down. Maybe we go and hear some teachings, but we are more interested in what is going on in the Sangha rather than listening to the teachings. So we are not open to the teachings and are just like a pot turned upside down, everything that is poured onto the pot just runs right off. Another way we are not a fit vessel for the teachings is, by listening to the teachings without an open mind, or maybe we listen with the wrong attitude, just want to become famous and smart. This is just like being a pot that is contaminated with poison.


Instead, we should listen to the teachings like a deer listening to music, contemplate them like a nomad sheering sheep, meditate on them like a dumb person enjoying food, practice them like a hungry yak eating grass, and then attain the result which is like the Sun coming out from behind the clouds.



In these degenerate times, when hunger for wealth and power dominates beings’ minds and corrupts their view, everybody wants the highest teachings like Mahamudra and Dzogchen, but without wanting to engage in the preliminary practices that prepare the foundation for advanced learning and practices. But what we fail to realize is that within the beginning teachings such as The Four Thoughts and The Four Noble Truths are the seeds that allow the Mahamudra and Dzogchen to grow.


We think because we know one or two of these and we can grasp everything. Our pride tells us we know many things but we fail to realize this: we don’t know what we don’t know. We are like children pretending we are adults. We follow the modern popular world’s ways and believe that they can get along with Dharma. In reality, Dharma is exactly opposite from the popular modern world, and that is why it needs renunciation from the world in order to accomplish the Dharma.


We have to be honest with ourselves and need to recognize what is keeping us tied to samsara. We have to look into our own mind and see for real that the Six poisons are there. It is our pride that keeps us attached to false views, it is our jealousy that keeps us grasping at competition, it is our desire that keeps us walking this world like a hunter looking for game, it is our greed that makes us feel insecure and forever trapped in delusion, it is our anger that keeps us running in circles of aggression and suspicion, and it is our ignorance that keeps us apart from the holy teachings that provide Liberation.


Just as talking about water will not cure thirst, just going to teachings and saying mantras without training the mind and extinguishing the six poisons, will never lead to Enlightenment.


While the six poisons dominate our mind, we will never possess the total trust that required for following the Guru’s advice. Even if we want to, with the six poisons, we are unable to mix the Dharma with our mind. When the negative emotional feelings arise, the Dharma and our merit become wiped out. Even one instant of anger can destroy many years of merit and virtue. So we must train our minds to watch our minds and remove any stain of non-virtue and aggression.


There was once a man who painted stones white or black. And whenever he had a positive thought he would put aside a white stone. And for each negative thought he would put aside a piece of black stones. In the beginning he just kept putting aside black stones. Over and over again he kept recognizing that his mind was full of negative thoughts. But after many years had passed, his mind became more positive, and his pile of white stones began to grow, until finally he had transformed his mind from negative to positive, and all that was left was a pile of white stones. This was accomplished by watching his mind and policing it very carefully. Once his mind was positive, then he realized he became a fit vessel for the Dharma. So how can we, after only a few months or years of casual practice, believed that we are ready for the higher teachings, when so many great beings have spent lifetime after lifetime training their minds and suffering so much for the sake of Dhamra.


Whatever we have faith and devotion towards, that is our religion. If you have faith and devotion in the worldly concerns then that is your religion. If you have faith and devotion in the Dharma and your Guru, then that is your religion. But be assured that these two (worldly concerns and Dharma) cannot get along.


So we must police our mind and apply the Dharma with all our effort, whenever we recognize even the slightest trace of the Six-Poisons or worldly concerns arise in our mind stream. Most of all we must develop the heart and mind of bodhichitta. Until our concern for others is greater than our concern for ourselves, any Dharma we receive will only be words. If we can train our mind to see every other being as a Buddha, slowly, over time, our view will become a little more positive and our life, regardless of our material status, will become a little happier.


What is it that is keeping us from accomplishing the Dharma and mixing it with our mind? It is us, that’s who. The obstacles to be removed are right here inside of us, there is no need to point the finger anywhere else.


So listen to the teachings like a perfectly formed bowl, and pray to your Guru for determination and strength, to defeat the demon of vanity and conceit that has for so many lifetimes, driven you into samsara’s jaws time and time again. Be generous, gentle and share a smile with others. Laugh easily, never at others, but with others. Trust the Gurus who have done the work and enjoy every day like it might just be your last—because it might just be! Ha Ha Ha.




When we look at our body, we see there are many parts called by many names that make up our one body. The Sangha is like that, we are many parts of one Sangha. Each one of us has our job or role to play within the Sangha, just like the many organs and parts of the body work together to form the whole person. So we should work together like all the parts of one body working together. When we work like this we are very efficient, useful and in harmony. When we are in many and acting as one, we can accomplish a lot for ourselves and others.




Natural faith arises by hearing the teachings and keeping them in our heart. I say natural faith because the faith that arises through the teachings is not intellectual faith, but a natural faith that has its essence of trust and confidence. Faith without confidence is easily broken.  But faith that comes from practice and study is unshakable because it has grown within us.  It is not something we have bought or something we try on like clothes, just because every one else is wearing it. If there is faith without confidence then doubt will arise and our understanding will be intellectual or emotional. Real faith, natural faith, how will we know we have it? We will know by our joy and happiness and the understanding that arises in our hearts and not just our mind. The mind is not the goal. Master Padmasambhava has said that we should not seek to cut the root of thoughts but the root of mind. In this, is a wonderful and powerful teaching. In Buddhadharma we go beyond the thoughts and beyond the mind. Maybe we are afraid to go so far, but that is why the Guru is here, to provide us with a safe and skillful method to cut the root of not only the thoughts but also the mind. Our mind thinks that if we go beyond the mind there will be nothing. Maybe that is true, but in that nothing, there is everything; and the prajnaparamita is being taught continuously for the benefit of all beings---if we can just settle ourselves and trust in the Spiritual friend, all good things will come to us and all negative things will be far from us.


We should not be conformed by this world but rather we should be transformed in our body and mind.


When we help others and have mercy upon those in need, we should always keep a cheerful heart. When our heart is cheerful, our energy will be strong and we can help more skilfully and efficiently. Even if we have to hide our happiness so we won’t offend those we are helping, we should hide it but never lose it. Without doubt, there is no joy like happiness. The happier we are the more joy we can share with others, the more joy we share with others the more peaceful they become. When others are peaceful, our world is peaceful, and we in turn will establish greater peace. When we have peace we can see clearly and hear clearly and act appropriately with a good heart. That is really the purpose of Buddhadharma, to have a good heart, a warm heart. We not only need to have a good heart towards what we are and what we do, but we need to have a good and warm heart toward others and what they are. We should always try to change ourselves rather than changing others. When we have made changes in our own heart and mind, then our positive, cheerful and peaceful presence will be enough to bring about changes in others.


When others share with us their hardships and problems, it is like they are pouring their water into our cup. Now with the teachings, it is important not to have a hole in the cup, but when we listen to the problems of others we should be like a cup with a hole in it. In this way, their problems don’t become our problems and we can help them better. So the skill we need is this: know when to plug the hole in our cup and know when to open it and just let things pass through us. It is no help to anyone if we just go around taking on other people’s problems. Most of the time, just by listening to someone is enough to help them. Most people just need someone to talk to. Usually they will talk enough to see the solution to their problem. So, being a good listener and you will become a good helper.


I have shown you the methods that lead to Liberation but you should know that Liberation depends upon your own efforts, actions, compassion, and wisdom.


I will serve all sentient beings.   I will pray for all sentient beings.   I will help all sentient beings.      

Be Virtuous! Be gentle! Be positive!


May all beings always increase their kindness, compassion, awareness and ultimate Bodhicitta.

May each and every sentient being enjoy the auspicious and favourable conditions for connecting with the precious Buddha Dharma.

May all sentient beings be blessed with limitless peace and boundless joy, and may all the miraculous accomplishments be achieved spontaneously!

Tashi delek!