A Dharma Teaching by His Holiness Rimay Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche

 

Section 9

 

Human Uniqueness

Introductory Teaching by H.H. Rimay Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche.

 

I would like to talk about the Rare and Precious Occasion of a Human Rebirth by presenting the Actual Cause, Example and Number.

In response to the request of my faithful students, I will now expound on some aspects of the Precious Dharma, including those that relate to the Rare Occasion of Human Rebirth. Please understand that the Human Body with the Eight Favorable Conditions and Ten Fortunes which you are presently enjoying is not easy to come by. The Primary Cause for obtaining a precious human life is that, one must have accumulated a vast amount of pure moral conduct in the past.

The degree of difficulty to obtain a human body; is illustrated by the example of how rare an occasion it would be for a blind tortoise to, by chance, stick its neck through the hole of a floating yoke on the surface of the great ocean. The difficulty of entering into a human existence is also indicated by considering the fact that, the Number of sentient beings in the Three Lower Realms is greater than the number of all the dust particles on earth. Thus, obtaining a human body is really a rare and precious occasion.

It is through the vast number of teachings by the Buddha on this subject that we can understand how difficult it is, to come to this world. Through the explanation of the Primary Cause, illustration of the Example and consideration of the Numbers, we can get an idea of how fortunate we are today, having obtained the Eight Leisure and the Ten Fortunate Conditions of a Precious Human Body. Subsequently, if we have no intention to make use of this opportunity of the human body, this rare support for the practice of the Holy Dharma, in order to accomplish its meaning, we can truly be called foolish.

To be successful in our Dharma practice, we need to remove our self from the busy-ness of worldly activities. Since we go alone into death, and it is unknown to us when and in what manner our death will occur, we need to quickly accomplish our Dharma Practice with great diligence. At the core of Dharma Practice lies the guarding of our actions through Body, Speech and Mind. That means to observe the law of cause and effect, or the Law of Karma. For instance, if there is no seed, there will be no harvest. If there is no cause, there will be no result. The result will always correspond with the good or bad qualities of the cause, and that is our actions. Virtuous action leads to pleasant experience. Sinful action leads to the realms of suffering. The Superior Teachings of the Buddha urge us to understand that there is no escape from these principles. Therefore we need to practice Virtue, abandon sinful actions and adopt wholesome attitudes.

Worldly activities and distractions are obstacles to Dharma practice. No matter how much worldly pleasure we engaged in, will never satisfy the ever increasing “fire” of passion. Although worldly pleasure appears to bring happiness, in truth, since its nature is not stable and always changing, happiness will change into the three kinds of suffering. Therefore, the very nature of worldly pleasure is suffering. It is suffering not to have goods and acquisitions, and it is also suffering to have and guard the ones we have, while constantly being afraid that our possessions will be lost or destroyed. As this is the case, when we have the opportunity, we should let go of all desire and attachment to worldly activities and practice the Dharma. These general preliminaries form the basis of our Dharma Practice.

In Dharma Practice, we need to lay the proper foundation for practice. If we do not engage in proper preparations, the actual basis for our work is lacking and we will not be able to pursue our practice. On the other hand, having the necessary foundation well developed, we proceed, without interruption, into the special preliminaries that include the Two Accumulations of Merit and Wisdom, and the purification of defilements.

The First of the Four Special Preliminaries is the practice of acquiring the Supreme outer and inner protection, by way of Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).

The Second practice of the Special Preliminaries is the practice of Mandala Offering. Through the Mandala Offering towards the Field of Accumulation consist of the Lamas, Buddha, Yidams, Dharma, Sangha and Protectors, we complete the Two Accumulations of Merit and Wisdom.

The Third Practice is the purification of defilements and obscurations. Through the contemplation and recitation of the deity Dorje Sempa, Vajrasattva, and his mantra, our moral faults and downfalls are removed.

The Fourth Practice of the Special Preliminaries is the most profound, to assimilate into ones being, the very expedient infusion of blessing through the practice of Guru-Yoga.

Just like washing our pots and dishes before cooking, in order to serve a clean meal. Turning towards the Wheel of Dharma and away from a worldly life is the same thing, we engage in the removal of obstacles through Dharma Practice, and by receiving the blessing of accomplishment, the mind-stream is cleansed.

We train ourselves by practicing all the various aspects of moral discipline pertaining to the tradition of the pure Buddha-Dharma. Also, we guard carefully our Samayas, sacred vows of commitment, and engage continuously in the essential points of the Superior Training. With faith and devotion, we rely on a qualified teacher, to turns us away from wrong views and expounds on the teaching of the Dharma.

The Excellent motivation of Bodhicitta, or “Awakened Heart” means it cares not only for ones own happiness, but rather, it engages in contemplation and practices that will benefit and bring happiness to all sentient beings. What distinguishes clearly between ordinary beings and Bodhisattvas is that, ordinary beings are only, or mainly, interested in their own benefit and happiness, and therefore wander forever in Samsara. While Bodhisattva, on the other hand, mainly concerns about and acts for the benefit and happiness of others, thus reaching Buddha hood. The true aspiration of Bodhicitta is the wish to enter into the path of proper attitude and to practice right action. It is to love all beings and give rise to true compassion and action, so that others are protected from harm.

If all these cannot be achieved at once, at least generate the Bodhicitta and offer prayers of pure aspiration. Do not treat anyone with anger or with the intention of harming. It is said that even a single moment of anger can destroy the total amount of virtue accumulated for a thousand kalpas or eons, an incredible period of time, and it will assist future anger to grow stronger. In short, practice the Ten Virtues. Give up the ten non-virtues and sinful actions. Take the Dharma as the support for your mind. If you are able to resist the arising defilements, your mind can be said being tamed. The essence of the Buddha’s Doctrine, all the 84,000 Dharmas (teachings), is just this!

Erecting fine monasteries, engaging in Dharma activities such as learning higher teachings and dressing in fine robes is a part of Buddha’s teaching, but it is not the essence of the Dharma. The teaching of the Buddha is a Doctrine of both precept and realization. First we need to lay a foundation by listening and reflecting on the instructions of the teachings. Then, for the actual realization of the teachings, we need to engage in the practice of meditation. Yet, if we do not know the real meanings of the Tripitaka, the three collections of Buddha’s teachings, and if we engage only in studying the words of the Dharma, we are engaging only in the “Precepts of the Doctrine”. When we engage in the “Realization of the Doctrine”, we are working with the various methods of meditation that lead to the rare state of Attainment, even though a virtuous mind has not yet arisen. Thus, when Dharma instruction is requested from the Root-Guru, the essence of the Buddha’s teachings is imparted.

We start on the path with the outer practice of discipline as our conduct. Then, we proceed through the inner cultivation of the profound attitude of Bodhicitta, the Heart of Enlightenment. Further on, we enter into the path of Secret Mantra, - the very profound and expedient Path of Channels, Wind-Energy and Essence. Finally, we enter the path of the most profound practice of Mahāmudrā.

For all this, we need to rely fully on our Root Teacher in order to bring our efforts to fruition. Therefore, faith and devotion in our Lama and the removal of wrong views is of foremost importance. While relying on, and requesting teaching from, your Root-Guru, never reject any Dharma teaching you are given.

In the same way, if we reject any of the Buddhist Deities and their mantra practices, we will never reach realization and enlightenment. In Tibet, the many Deities are grouped and given various names, but the Root Lama is the true Embodiment of all Buddhas and Deities. Since our Lama is the true Embodiment of all the Buddhas, if we do not have unchanging faith and devotion, and develop wrong views instead, we can go nowhere but to the lower realms.

If empowerment into the Superior Path of Secret Mantra has been given, and the Secret Word Oath- Samaya is broken, its result is rebirth in the Vajra-Hell. After having obtained the uncommon Empowerment of the Pointing out the Essence of Mind from one’s Root-Guru - that is the inseparability with Buddha Vajradhara Dorje Chang - if the vision is lost, look at the Buddha in you! If you’re not able to give rise to the vision again, it must be known! Instead of trying to deceive our Lama and entering into a state of false Dharma, we need to bring our mind back to the state of even placement in its true state.

In order to come to a true understanding of the view of Emptiness, we need to engage in the meditation practices of the Generation Stage and Completion Stage in Vajrayana. To do that, we need to practice in an unmistaken way where we understand what are the Cause and the Result in our practice. By walking the Gradual Path, we lay the wholesome foundation, so well needed, for later practices on the path of Secret Mantra Vajrayana.

Normally we hold on and cling to the notions of good and bad, hope and fear, pure and impure, etc. These are all, in their own way, valid concepts and practices. But when the high level of Mahāmudrā view and practice has been achieved, these concepts are no longer necessary. That is the time, when looking at “one’s own face”, the self-essence, all appearances come and go in the Dharmakaya-nature of mind.  Whatever arises in the mind is seen as the ornament of realization. The essence of confusion is purity.

The various deeds and teachings presented by the Buddha are like the brandishing of a spear in the sky. They bring beings to the understanding of the Inconceivable and Unsurpassable Accomplishment of the highest view and meditation.

The view of Mahāmudrā is the view that finally dissolves the doubts of the fundamental confusion in the mind. Meditation within the system of Mahāmudrā is done in the manner of non-distraction, non-meditation and relaxation. The meaning of the meditation is accomplished through whatever arises or manifests. If this uncommon path of direct experience is correctly practiced, even only for one instant, the benefit is greater than the virtue of the practice and recitation with body and speech throughout many kalpas. But as long as we have not arrived at this level of practice, everybody, be it a Lama, monk or nun, man or woman, girl or boy, we must be very careful not to increase the accumulation of bad karma, through sinful actions that do not accord with the general teachings of the Buddha’s Dharma.

Do not reverse your faith and devotion. Also, please do not keep a mind full of contempt, small-mindedness or wrong views. Neither should you living a generally unsuitable life without knowing or caring about what is right and wrong. The karma from such behavior will certainly lead to the Lower Realms.

It is very important to be aware and guard whatever vows and commitments we have taken as individuals, be it the oath of Refuge, the different sets of individual vows, the Bodhisattva-Vow or the commitments in relation to Secret Mantra Empowerments. If smaller faults, downfalls or sins have been committed, confession must be done. But if greater sins and downfalls have been committed, confession alone is not sufficient. Good qualities and Virtue can never come from non-virtuous and sinful actions. With great sincerity must we acknowledge our faults and from the bottom of our heart repent and confess them. If we thereafter promise that we will never repeat the confessed faults and sinful actions again, it is sure that they will be purified. In these degenerate times, if we have true kindness and a sincere heart, the possibility of sickness and obstacles, that so easily arise, are removed. Subsequently, we can travel along the Superior Path to Liberation.

When we and all beings develop faith in the Great Beings of Boundless and Swift Compassion such as Manjushri, Arya Tara, Avalokiteshvara, Padmasambhava, Medicine Buddha and Vajrasattva, we experience great blessings. The nature of mind is divine. But if we have no wish or yearning to engage in the practice of the Dharma and instead spend our time quarrelling, we draw no benefit or blessing from the Deities or the teachings. Each individual must experience the results of his/her own negativities accumulated since beginning-less time.

In the Excellent Teachings of the Buddha, it is stated that if we experience suffering we should generate love, kindness and Bodhicitta and pray genuinely. Further, if we wish to avoid future suffering we should avoid all sinful actions and delusions. We should rely on the Excellent Root Lama and the Superior Beings of the Buddhist Deities. We should also engage in the teachings with confidence and determination. The blessings have the capacity to bring great result and power in a very short time, if we allow the process to work without disturbance.

It is certain that each action will lead to a subsequent result. All the Exalted Beings like the Mahasiddhas of India, Marpa and Milarepa of Tibet, for example, have relied on this swift and profound path of the Dharma. They have arrived at the most exalted state by relying on their confidence in the Right Method, View, Ground and the Four Immeasurables: Immeasurable Love, Immeasurable Compassion, Immeasurable Joy and Immeasurable Equanimity. In short, we need to let our Dharma Practice affect our mind, so that we are able to turn away from Samsara. If you summarize the Buddha’s Teachings, they are:

“May the Mind turn to the Dharma.”

Rely on the Root-Guru, the practice of the Two Accumulations and the purification of defilements.

“May the Mind traverse the path of the Dharma.”

Rely on the Excellent Beings, the Buddhas and Deities. Listen to the counsel of the Root-Guru.

“May the Mind realize the delusion to be Pure.”

Practice the Mahāmudrā according to the instruction of your Root-Guru.

“May delusion arise as the Innate Wisdom.”

Rely on your own mind being the nature of Dharmakaya.

“Liberate yourself through the Realization.”

Arrive at the effortless Activity.

“Liberate others through the Great Compassion.”

Clarify the right Path through the Enlightened Blessing.

“The Right Path being understood and implemented, then through the Supreme Realization of Mahāmudrā, may the Exalted State of Vajradhara be reached in this very life.”

This was the short explanation on the progressive stages of Dharma-Practice. I have written this concise text, without too many unnecessary words, on how to practice in a way that benefits the mind.

This was written by Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche.

May the Glorious Blessing of the Root-Guru enter the mind of beings. May all be Virtuous.  


Advice on how to Cultivate the Spiritual Journey

 

As you take increasing joys in the benefit of discourse and reasoning, you may indeed consider yourself have not possessed the ability or qualities to give advice to others. However, you may still have the sincere wish to wake your friends up to a greater clarity. In this case you can still be of real benefit by talking comprehensibly about things that you feel you have a clear understanding. For example, consider what an excellent support for practice this human life is. When engaged in Dharma practice we make this human existence meaningful. We should study and examine the essence of the Buddhist teachings and, further, engage in the two principal branches of studies and meditation practice.

To cultivate the outer discipline is, for example, to engage in building and repairing of establishments like monasteries and Stupas. One observes the Essence of the Buddha’s Teachings by engaging in the three types of Training and learning.  Instead of remaining uncultivated and holding oneself as foremost, the skillful way is to establish the peace of mind without discursive thoughts rather than to discipline ones behavior.

The Famous Great Teachers of the past have all said that Liberation is not possible if we remain ignorant. We should not engage in disputes over who belongs to the “right” religion or spiritual lineage. Nor should we believe that there is contradiction between them.

It is important to work on our capacity to gain full attention and concentration. If we allow our arrogance to grow, our development will be very slow. We must first acquire intelligent understanding in order to develop matchless wisdom later. In the same way, we must first release from the “prison” of a tense body for it to be of help later.

To the degree we manage to keep our view firm and be patience in our practice; that much can we manage to avoid affliction and fear at the time of difficulties. When afflicted by difficulties during exertion in our Dharma-Practice, we should rely on the essential points of practice given by our Lama. This will further our strength and ability in sacred outlook.

To what degree we have the unchangeable faith and devotion in our Lama, to the same degree will we be able to avoid difficulties in receiving the blessing. How we manage to combine the higher learning with the general teachings, to the same degree will our Samaya-Commitment be strengthened, and the more we can be benefit.

We will never develop any abilities through occasional practice of the Dharma or a Deity. The practice of Inner Channels, Energies and Mahāmudrā is accomplished through many repetitions and much effort. A Liberated Mind is the true sign of successful application of effort.

It is not a correct practice of Secret Mantra to look for faults in ones Lama’s outer appearance, his speech or in his teachings. Nor it is a correct Secret Mantra practice to avoid giving up what has to be given up and refuse to take up what should be taken up, according to the general teachings of Dharma training. Moreover, if having engaged and completed the higher studies and learning, but refuse sharing with others what one rightly knows is also not a correct practice of Secret Mantra. Correct Secret Mantra practice is when one, upon having completed examination and reasoning, takes it to its fullest realization of the inner meaning.

If one finds the qualities in a beloved son to be agreeable and adorable, one assumes that these qualities stem from the parents. In a similar manner, when we see some little amount of good qualities in our self and then also some amount of delusion, we should make a distinction and understand what is from our own being and what is actually comes from being connected to the Lineage.

May the blessing of the Glorious Lama immediate to enter,

May the light of the Virtuous Fields pervade the entire world, and may Samsara become joyful by the light of the Dharma.

This was written by the monk with the name Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche.

May we, by the Blessings of Accomplishment, all come to perceive the Presence of the Buddha

 


The Methods of Taming the Mind through the Unity of Mind, Dharma and Auspicious Conditions which lead to the State of All-Knowing Wisdom

 

 

You are all very fortunate to have managed to come and listen to the Dharma here today. Some of us are practicing Lamas and monks. Others are practicing laymen and women. Even though India with Vajrasana (Bodhgaya) is regarded as the central country for us, it is in our snowy land of Tibet that the Dharma has been cultivated and preserved to its fullest extent. With the rays of light from the celestial realms, it has been kept as the youthful and vital land of the Holy Dharma.

No matter if we are monks, Lamas or lay people, we are all equal in the teachings of the Dharma and need to carry out and accomplish its true meaning. Despite the different styles and ways of practices that exist, through the teachings of Dharma, we come to understand the importance of knowing what is, and what is not, pure Dharma Practice.

It is said that there are only a few truly beneficial friends for us in this world:

The precious human body which is so difficult to obtain.

The very rare occasion of coming into contact and being able to hear the Holy Buddha-Dharma.

The unusual opportunity to meet with a true Spiritual Friend in person.

These conditions are, in themselves, a sign of the fortunate time period we experience right now. It is these conditions that have provided me with the opportunity to teach the Dharma to you here today. I do this with the greatest aspiration of bringing you closer to perfect fruition through proper Dharma knowledge.

It is my firm belief that if these teachings are taken seriously and carried out to their natural conclusion, they will result in Perfect Liberation and the State of All-Knowing Wisdom. This is the only objective of the practice of Dharma. For instance, if we decide to go across the ocean in a boat, there must be a good reason for doing so, such as bringing home a great treasure or load of jewels. In the same way, I truly believe there must be a sense of purpose in our Dharma practice. The real purpose is to reach Liberation and the State of All-Knowing Wisdom (Buddhahood).

Let’s talk about Freedom and the State of All-Knowing Wisdom. To be liberated means being liberated from the world of samsara, the state of temporal existence. Freedom is a state completely beyond even the greatest pleasures and experience of wellbeing occasionally experienced by gods and humans. It is also a permanent escape from all forms of suffering and misery experienced by beings in the lower realms of existence. Such a blissful state is achieved by a fully accomplished Dharma Practice.

To be able to obtain a Precious Human Body, such as we have, requires an especially pure moral conduct as the root-cause. It is also necessary to have accumulated virtue and wisdom together with purification of defilements. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to engage in such meaningful practices in order to be able to obtain a human body again in the future. The true purpose of human existence is to have the opportunity of integrating the Dharma and auspicious conditions into our lives. The great benefit of Dharma is that it brings a working method of taming the mind to make it more pliable. Why do we need to tame our minds? Since beginning-less time we have been under the influence of habitual tendencies such as desire, hatred and ignorance. We have a mind that is on very intimate terms with these mental poisons. Now, since we have obtained the favorable conditions of meeting great Teachers and are able to listen to Dharma Teachings, the time has come for us to enter into Dharma Practice and start incorporating these teachings that will fulfill the purpose of this human existence.

The characteristics of the Dharma can be explained in terms of engaging in “action-cause-result” where we engage in the practice of virtue and abandonment of non-virtue or harmful actions. Our mind is in need of a capable and powerful method. Using a method without such abilities is a waste of time. If we allow poisons such as desire, hate and ignorance to remain in our stream of consciousness, Dharma will never really be grasped and therefore can not help us. The cultivation of the mind through Dharma Practice is, should not be, regarded as a struggle or burden. Rather, it should be experienced as something that is bringing great benefit to us. In order to integrate and merge our minds with favorable conditions and the methods of Dharma, we need to have knowledge about the actual methods of cultivating these favorable conditions and wholesome causes for the development of the mind.

The principle cause of all suffering in the Three Realms of Samsara is the arising of the defilement of desire in our mind. Please, do understand this! Further, we should also understand that giving rise to anger and hatred is the principle cause of getting re-born into and experiencing the existence in any of the three lower realms (animal, hungry ghost and hell). Also, remain in an ignorant state of stupidity means being unable to discern how to live a wholesome life; and the state of Buddhahood can never be realized. It will also ruin any possibility of getting re-born in a god or human realm. Therefore, the principal defilements of desire, hatred and ignorance must be subdued. Then a fruitful progression towards a successful union between favorable conditions and Dharma can take place in our minds and in our lives. If such a union cannot eventually be reached, the Dharma will not be of too much help for the development of our minds. If we, over time, notice a positive change in our stream of consciousness, then that is a sign that true Dharma is being practiced. On the other hand, if we see no change in our mind, then a “different” or backward kind of Dharma is being applied. If the mind develops in a negative direction, that is a sign of erroneous spiritual practice.

No progress can be made as long as more defilements and mental poisons are being added to the mind. It is therefore of utmost importance to start learning how to achieve true integration of favorable conditions and Dharma practice into our lives.

From recognizing that our focus and motivation should be towards the attainment of Liberation and the All-Knowing State of Buddhahood, gods and humans are in the favorable position of being able to engage in practices such as accumulation of virtue and purification of defilements. We are able to practice generosity through extending offerings of wealth towards the Three Jewels. We have the ability to cultivate an altruistic heart of love and compassion towards other beings. It is through such practices of altruistic generosity shown towards the Three Jewels, Lamas, monks and beings, done with deepest faith and devotion, that the wealth of favorable causes and conditions that leads towards Liberation and the All-Knowing State of Buddhahood is gained.

In short, all such practices should be applied to, and be the focus of, our Dharma Practice. Then the superior State of Buddhahood will be reached. It is my firm belief that the abandonment of defilements, such as the three mental poisons, and the integration of favorable causes and conditions, together with the methods of the Dharma into one’s mind, are being taught in the Buddha’s Doctrine aiming for Liberation and Buddhahood.

The Buddha himself said:

1. “Do not engage in any form of defiled activities.”

2. “Increase the spiritual wealth of virtue.”

3. “Completely tame the stream of consciousness.”

This is the Doctrine of the Buddha. In its most condensed form, the Buddha’s Doctrine is said to consist of these three concepts. It is due to the profound teachings of the Buddha that any vital places of Dharma Practice exist at all. If these teachings didn’t exist, a state of total laziness and disregard for future experiences would prevail among us. Therefore, I believe, in order to gain the favorable causes and conditions so dearly needed, we need to engage in the practices of the Three Concepts of accumulating virtue, abandoning defilements and taming the mind, as clearly stated by the Buddha.

Since you have especially asked me for some advice on the methods of taming the mind, I now have the opportunity to express a few words to the general public on the topics of abandoning defilements and accumulating virtue. I will say something about the virtuous actions through speech and body we can engage in, as well as some different types of active and passive harmful activities we commit. A wholesome and pure mind will be spontaneously inclined towards virtuous activities to some degree. But a defiled mind with an evil intent will produce nothing but harm and suffering. We must come to realize the destructiveness of such activities and give it up!

It is important to acknowledge the purposefulness of whatever wholesome and virtuous practices we’re engaged in. Both virtuous and non-virtuous actions bring results. As long as we are engaged in virtuous activities, that is sufficient! We need not speculate on how great our virtue is. But it is not enough to just abandon harmful actions, such as killing. The Teachings say that we must also give up all harmful intentions and attitudes towards all other beings. If virtuous activities are carried out and non-virtuous ones abandoned, eventually we will become one with the essence of Dharma and all favorable causes and conditions will be achieved. These topics have been extensively explained in all the common teachings of the Buddha, such as the collected sections of both the Vinaya and Sutra teachings, as well as in the teachings of Lord Milarepa.

In short, it all comes down to discipline. That is what tames the rough mind and brings peace. If the interests of others is the predominant attitude in the mind, that is a sure sign of a Bodhisattva. Further, if someone with that kind of mind is involved in developing faith and devotion towards the Guru and practices the Path of Secret Mantra, that is someone at the Vajrayana level of practice.

This is, in short, the very condensed meaning of the Gradual Path by the Buddha including such teachings that are found in the Vinaya and Sutra. The Buddha turned the Wheel of Dharma three times, which represents the Three Vehicles (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) and is said to have given 84,000 unique teachings. Among all these many teachings, the practice of patience and perseverance stands out as among the greatest helper or friend. It assists with self-discipline and the practice of taming the afflicted mind dominated by the three mental poisons. In addition, patience and perseverance help to bring the mind to full union with Dharma, together with the fruition of auspicious causes and conditions.

To be able to fully utilize such excellent help on the Path, when we practice virtue and reject non-virtue, is said to be at the core of Dharma Practice. There is no higher form of Dharma Practice than this! The ultimate outcome of our efforts is in our own hands. If we manage to practice the way the Buddha describes, we fulfill the sacred inner meaning of our human existence.

It is not important whether we are born in a vibrant Dharma environment or not. Nor is it matter whether we are male or female, lamas, monks, nuns or lay people. What really matters is if we are really practicing the Dharma properly, or not. The vital point is to establish the confidence in the words and example of the Buddha. No matter who engages in the correct practice of the Dharma, all will be able to reach Liberation and the State of All-Knowing Wisdom. Our daily practice on the Path and training of a Bodhisattva along the many various steps and vehicles towards the State of Buddhahood, are the essential points of the Dharma:

The practice of recitation, purification, meditation and observance of the Three sets of Vows should be done with a complete sense of value and seriousness.

Do not settle for just a small amount of accumulated virtue, but strive to increase Accumulation of Virtue to ever higher degrees in a continuous manner, without interruption.

Applying effective methods of taming the basic levels of mind really means having the skills to apply virtues and effective practices, thereby reducing and giving up afflictions such as the three poisons of mind. Prideful attitudes such as the belief that we are practicing Dharma better then anyone else is an adversary in our efforts of reducing poisons such as desire, hatred, ignorance and pride, and must be given up!

The negative attitude of regarding certain outer things or beings as producing obstacles in our pursuit of Liberation and the State of the All-Knowing Wisdom will also increase the poisons in our mind and must be counteracted.

 

The Buddha himself said:

“Contemplate its disagreeable appearance in order to reduce the adversary of desire.”

“Counteract the adversary of anger and hate with a heart of love and compassion.”

“Accumulate the causes for Wisdom in order to uproot the adversary of ignorance.”

In short, do not give in to afflictions; then you will be able to give them up completely. To give in, or slave under, these poisons is counterproductive in the process of taming the mind-stream.

Now, for us that are at the beginning of the Path, it is of greatest importance that we concentrate our efforts on the gathering of favorable conditions that comes from avoiding and abandoning the arising afflictions. Later, when a great deal of the disturbing emotions has subsided, a closer relationship between teacher and student is established and a deeper form of meditation instructions is given. At that point, the possibility to work on the complete taming of the stream of mind arises. Our ability to move on from that point rests completely on the precise instructions we obtain from our teacher. The Teacher will be able to present appropriate and precise methods of causes and conditions that will facilitate the desired result.

It is not the case that afflictions are “dumped” somewhere or “picked up” from some other place. Rather, the “giving up” and “picking up” really means resting in a peaceful state of Perfect Abandonment. This allows the events in mind to subside into their own empty nature, much like the immediate evaporation of snowflakes on a hot surface. When insight into the true nature of the arising emotions is realized, they immediately evaporate into their own place and peace is attained. Just as a drawing in water appears and disappears without leaving a trace, so also do emotions appear and disappear into themselves, without remaining even for a moment. This is the Supreme form of Transformation. It is a type of practice where the practitioner, moment by moment, is absorbed in a state of Perfect Equanimity and Bliss. This type of meditative absorption is the highest form of transformation, and without it, complete taming of the mind cannot take place.

In short:

To know the mind, is to be a Buddha.

To be ignorant of the Mind’s nature, is to be a sentient being.

The essence of Mind is the same in the Buddha and in beings.

Buddha arises from one’s own mind, not from somewhere else! It is the supreme Path of Transformation to focus on, and care for, ones own mind. Without these gentle but superior methods, results cannot be hoped for.

Through proper application of the teacher’s skilful instructions, each person will develop the ability to achieve the “Three Absences” which are

1. Elimination of outer hindrances and obstacles.

2. Abandonment of inner desires and passions.

3. Cessation of illness and disorder of the body.

In this way, through study and practice along the Gradual Path, Liberation and the Exalted State of the All-Knowing Wisdom are attained.

So, for us who have entered the gate into the Dharma, we should learn well how to practice the Dharma properly and how the mind should be tamed.

I request all of you that have gathered here today to practice the Dharma as much as you can and in appropriate ways.

I thank you very much and wish you happiness, well-being and good fortune. 


The Proper View and Model on How to Progress Along the Path of Successively Higher Stages and Vehicles

If a high ranking teacher is seen by others performing disgraceful acts, such as killing and stealing, that teacher is then acting in contradiction to the stipulated rules of the Doctrine on discipline and self-restraint. However, at the time of being in the position of performing Empowerment within the vehicle of Secret Mantra, or Vajrayana, this kind of inappropriate behavior is completely unacceptable and is in fact heretical. So, what should the correct behavior of a Lama be? Instead of using the ordinary and limited examples of our self and other ordinary beings as the yardstick, we should look to the examples of the actual Buddha and the Noble Masters of the past and place our faith and trust in them. If we do not look to the impeccable examples of previous Masters we will not be able to know what the proper conduct is for a Lama. Also, due to the blindness of our own impurities and limited views, we look instead for faults in others, such as the Lama. By doing so, true faith will never arise in us. And by not having faith, we will never be able to receive the blessing.

In order to purify ourselves of these erroneous views, first we need to see our faults and impurities clearly. We need to acknowledge our own wicked actions and come to have a strong sense of trust and confidence in the genuine nature of the Buddha and the Masters of the past. This is how erroneous views and heretical practices can be cleansed.

In connection with the Samaya -sacred oath of the Vajrayana- we must rely completely on Pure View, or sacred outlook. If we don’t, we will not see the proper and purposeful nature of the Lama’s actions and teachings. If a sense of complete trust in the words of the Master is established, we will be able to commit ourselves fully to the teachings. Having reached the stage of being a student of a Master at this level, it is absolutely necessary to have such deep faith and confidence in the Master that we would not hesitate to do anything he or she asks of us. Such is the kind of confidence required at the Secret Mantra level of Dharma practice. In order to reach higher levels and vehicles on the path, the objectives of our consciousness must also rise.

For the student it is not possible to have a full and detailed understanding of all the activities of body, speech and mind of the Lama. Instead, the student involved in the practice of Secret Mantra should rely completely on the Sacred Outlook of the Samaya commitment. Then, the causes and conditions established during empowerment will ripen into perfection.

Compared with the lower paths and vehicles, the path of Secret Mantra, with its unique instructions and skillful means, has the power to quickly lead the practitioner to the Highest State of Perfect Vajradhara without much difficulty. Provide that the practitioner guards the Samaya Commitment very carefully and to see the Master as being Buddha himself. Thus, the student receives the necessary empowerment and is able to reach, without much hardship, liberation with this body and in this life and through a diligent practice of the Master’s instructions. That is the Highest and Most Special Innermost Secret practice of the Dharma.

Now, in relation to the explanations of the Vehicles and levels higher than the Hinayana school of teachings, we touch on the subjects of meat-eating, drinking of alcohol and sexual activities, which are prohibited as in the Vinaya teachings(the Buddha’s teachings on self-discipline). It is not the case that these rules of Vinaya apply only to those practicing at the Hinayana level. Rather, the meaning and purpose of these rules, for instance, meat-eating, alcohol and sexual activities, must be known and understood by everybody practicing the Dharma.

For someone who also practices within the Mahayana school, compassionate contemplation is practiced during meals where meat is consumed. Contemplation on Sacred Oaths and Pure Vision is accomplished when taking alcohol. The teaching says, “Develop love and compassion for the beings whose meat you are eating and dedicate your merit and wishes towards its Liberation and attainment of the All–Knowing State of Buddhahood.”

Meat and alcohol are transformed into the Five Meats and Five Nectars, substances of blessing, during a Vajra-Feast (Ganachakra) in the Secret Mantra tradition, the highest form of Dharma practice. To be able to receive blessing at the level of the Secret Mantra, an establishment of strong faith and firm belief is necessary. Indeed, a practice without true faith and confidence will yield no result, and we can never hope to attain the state of Primordial Wisdom. But when we have firm trust and a sense of genuine faith and devotion, the blessing of wisdom comes to us. Through the extraordinary methods of this swift path, the state of Vajradhara will be within reach.

While the path of Hinayana is doing the job in a slow, arduous and round-about way, Vajrayana (Secret Mantra) does it in a very quick and to-the-point way. At the very highest level of practice, the teachings of Mahāmudrā, the Master is seen as representing the Innermost Essence and the student as a vessel or receptacle. Here, commitments and obligations are transmitted at the time when the student is introduced to the True Nature by means of a “Pointing-Out-Instruction”. After that the path is no longer gradual but instantaneous. It is a direct leap into space and the attainment of the state of Perfect Vajradhara. The practitioner is able to reach Buddhahood in this very life and with this body through this extraordinary Dharma Path of hidden depth.  

While on the Path of Mahāmudrā, the Lama represents True Reality and the student acts as an open vessel. But, as long as we are on the gradual path, the important point to remember is to carefully protect and guard our actions, as it is so clearly taught in the teachings of cause and result (karma) in the doctrines of Hinayana. Thus, we will be able to successively progress to increasingly higher levels and vehicles and towards the state of complete Buddhahood. This is the general and correct way to proceed along the path.

No matter what nationality we are, the principle methods apply to us all. It is the in-born quality in our practice that is important. One of my Dharma students once asked me, “Are not all the powers and abilities obtained by the student when the Lama puts the skull-cup to his head?” The Great Holy Masters of the past have both explained and demonstrated that Liberation is indeed attainable by the blessings of such gestures. Symbolic methods such as hitting a student were used to indicate that it is indeed possible, on rare occasions, for Liberation to occur. Nowadays, however, a Teacher-Student relationship of this kind hardly exists any more. Teachers and students of that calibre are indeed rare. The level of faith and confidence necessary for such relationship to be fruitful is not seen today. But, if a Teacher really does possess such qualities, having that level of faith and confidence is both appropriate and right.

On the other hand, it is a case of mistaken faith and devotion if we believe that a Lama that does not had such qualities, should still be able to bring about our Liberation. That kind of faith and devotion is useless. I have seen this happen in the past, and the consequence of a practice on an unsound basis will only yield poor results, even in the attempt to practice the most common meditation practices.

The better our own understanding of the general path of meditation practice is, the better we will be able to come to a sound judgment on what qualities a teacher truly possesses. Thus, it is very important to comprehend as clearly as possible the general purpose and meaning of the Buddha’s Doctrine. Along with our own understanding of how the Vehicles and Paths are arranged and inter-linked, our ability to perceive the inner meaning of each level and vehicle grows. Eventually, we will also be able to understand why receiving Empowerment is such a serious business and why it should not be seen as a trivial matter.

In the case of being on the path of Mahāmudrā practice, the reliance on the Teacher becomes even more important. Without a pointing-out-instruction (of our mind-essence), there is no basis for Mahāmudrā practice! Our Root-Lama is indeed the only one that can act as the provider for such introduction. Having obtained such introduction, we are tied even closer to our Lama through a Commitment, or Samaya. That bond is damaged or broken if we, at a later stage, attempt to discredit or even go directly against our Root-Lama. The result will be unhappiness and misery in this and in future lives. Moreover, sacred oaths are also committed to during Empowerment when the student receives the sprinkling of sacred water. If such commitments are guarded and kept well, realization of Enlightenment is possible. But violating such oaths may be harmful to our own lives! Because of the dangers involved, it is obvious that careful protection of our oaths and commitments is much needed if we want to reach realization and avoid early death and rebirth in a lower realm. The point is, receiving empowerments and taking the Samaya vows can be a very powerful help in achieving enlightenment – they can be the support needed for achieving enlightenment in this very lifetime, rather than taking countless future lives – but they should not be taken unless one is ready, especially the Samaya Vows. Being ready means truly appreciating the seriousness and profound value, and the living power of one’s relationship with the Vajra-Master. He is your connection to a Living Lineage of Enlightenment, this is not a child’s game – it is the most important and meaningful relationship possible for a human being. If you saw an exposed electrical wire laying on the ground you should be very careful. The electricity running through that wire could power a whole house, but if not properly handled, it could kill you. If you were smart, you’d get an electrician – someone properly trained and experienced in handling the awesome power of electricity – to come and deal with it. Just so, if you want to ‘plug in’ to the awesome power of Enlightenment, you must be properly trained and experienced. You should properly value what you’re doing, and you must be capable of properly maintaining the commitments you make for the rest of your life! There are not a lot of people capable of doing that, as much as they might like to.

The taking of an oath and drinking of the sacred water must be preceded by an explanation by the Master and acceptance from the student. If proper understanding is not present in the student before and during the drinking of the water, realization of Enlightenment can never be achieved through that Empowerment, even if the Lama attempts to present a more thorough explanation at a later stage. Though oaths committed under such circumstances are of no benefit, they still may be harmful and can potentially cause great injury and misfortune to the practitioner, depending of course on the actions of the practitioner. Therefore, these kinds of Empowerment and Commitments should never take place! Personally, I never take part in such Empowerment. If the Samaya of the Empowerment is damaged and not maintained, not only will it bring much harm to oneself, but it will also be very harmful to others. The reasons and motives behind such oaths must be thoroughly explained to people.

Of course, these warning don’t mean we can never make common mistakes or occasional forgetting about that, since this is part of being a human. Even the greatest Masters can not always be able to keep all of their Samaya vows perfectly. Minor violations can be remedied and purified through practices such as the Vajrasattva mantra, and renewing one’s proper motivation. The most serious consequences of breaking one’s Samaya vows are a result of serious, intentional violations – turning against one’s Guru, harming the Sangha, etc.

Generally, even though we are not able to guard the considered points of an oath perfectly, it is not enough to cause a re-birth in hell realms. But after having understood the reasons for, and acceptance of, the main points to be guarded, we should not fail to practice in a proper way the activities that need to be adopted. We should also recognize the ones that need to be abandoned. This much should definitely be clearly explained to the student.

This was an attempt on my part to describe the entire Progression along the Path as wisely as possible. Even though I don’t possess the fullest knowledge of all aspects of the Gradual Path of the Holy Dharma, so profoundly vast and deep in scope, it is my sincere hope that I, at least, have given all of you some good advice on the Main Points along the Path. Though some of my words have been pleasant, some have been far more serious. Yet, I believe they have been simple enough to be understood by all. Some of the things I have talked about belong to the teachings of Mahāmudrā practice of Secret Mantra, and it is something that should not be passed on to the general public.

May these instructions act as a proper and useful help, and serve as a basis for the forming of a firm belief and understanding of the practice along the Gradual Path of the Buddha’s Doctrine.

The fact that you show so much faith and devotion towards the Buddha’s Teachings, and  prepared to practice and rely on the guidance of a Spiritual Friend, or Lama, is indeed a clear sign that we are enjoying a historically fortunate and glorious time together. Please, take great joy and delight in your Dharma practice! I feel a strong Dharma-connection has formed between each and every one of us here today, and you will all be included in my continuous Dharma activities of supplication and removals of obstacles. That is all for today!

Please, be diligent in your Dharma practice. I thank you all and wish you happiness and success.


The Basic Foundation of the Four Subjects;

Bodhicitta, Emptiness, Mahāmudrā & Dzogchen

 

Precious Bodhicitta

Bodhicitta arises from a compassionate attitude through Wisdom towards the others. It is a Mind of Perfection and Purity with the two-fold wish of the Two Benefits:

  1. To become free of suffering and confusion through the realization of Emptiness (Ultimate Bodhicitta).
  2. To help others become free through the attitude of Love and Compassion helping (Relative Bodhicitta).

 

As it is said by Lord Maitreya: —“A mind that possesses the wish and aim towards the Two Benefits is an evolved mind (a mind of Bodhicitta)”. Therefore, the arising of Bodhicitta depends on the genuine care for others. In fact, this is said to be the sole object of interest of the Perfect Buddhas. It is a compassionate and caring mind completely focused on the happiness and well-being of suffering beings. Its sole wish is to liberate the infinite number of beings reborn in, and experiencing suffering in, states such as those of the lower realms.

So, in this way, compassionately taking the welfare of others as the aim and wishing to free all from suffering, is the true meaning. Generally, to have a strong sense of wanting to relieve others from suffering is needed, and is in itself the true essence of a compassionate mind.

Now, since we, at this moment, are less than sure what the actual nature of the suffering being’s experience is, and know even less how to help them, we must first train in the generation of True Compassion and genuine care for others. In our wisdom-training towards the completion of absolute Bodhicitta, we come to see how different the state of exalted being and transcended liberation is, and how utterly different worldly existence is from the State of Perfect Tranquility of Buddha’s experience.

Secondly, wishing beings to experience happiness is the essence of True Love. In order not to confuse this with the inferior kind of love in samsara, we train towards the realization of wisdom and the state of Buddhahood, and we come to see the meaning of this True kind of Love.

In this way, the Precious Bodhicitta arises, and it is the essence of the Profound Mahayana Teachings from the time of the Glorious Lord Nagarjuna (tib; PalGön Pagpa Ludrub) and Shantideva (tib; GyalSä Shiwa hLha), the Heart Son of all the Victorious Ones.

Precious Bodhicitta is the foundation in practices such as the Six Paramita and Mind Training (tib; Lho Djong), and carries through all the extensive teachings of the practicing lineage of the Gradual Path (tib; Lam Rim) established by Lord Gyaltse Togme and Dharmakirti (tib; Serlingpa), and was extensively propagated by Lord Atisha (tib; Jowo Je). The establishment of the Precious Bodhicitta is a prerequisite in perfecting all the creative and ripening practices such as the Seven Points of Mind Training (tib; Lho Djong Dön Dynma), along with all other practices.

The Principal aspects of Emptiness

Because beings are unaware of the true nature of their own being and hold the self to be a true entity, they wander endlessly in samsara. Therefore, they need to re-examine the nature of their being and come to see its true nature which is empty, in absolute peace and non-arising, according to the Sutra Teachings of the Mahayana Vehicle.

In order to come to full knowledge quickly, old habits should be abandoned and the fact that the Two Veils of afflictions and ignorance darken and obscure the mind from knowing the truth should be understood. It is explained in both the Sutras and the classical commentaries that these two types of obscurities must be given up. Also, in order to reach the All-knowing State of Wisdom, the Extraordinary Path of Emptiness must be practiced and attained. In principle, on the path towards Liberation, the veils of afflictions should be cut off. In order to reach the All-knowing State of Wisdom, the principal practice along the path is to clear away the obscurities of ignorance.

Furthermore, no matter how great our desire for Liberation is, we must understand that the afflictions stand in the way of it. Unless a true sense of selflessness is attained, those very same afflictions cannot be abandoned. Therefore, the principal cause for us being unable to cast off our afflictions springs from our firm belief in an “I”, —a truly existing self.

Taking the sensations of the Five Skandhas of one’s being as the object of thorough investigation, one comes to realize the non-self and the true nature of being. If we continue to follow this path of instructions and manage to resolve questions as they appear in our search for an “I” in our body, mind, name, etc., we will easily come to a clear understanding of our non-self nature. This is the Extraordinary Path of Emptiness of the Mahayana Vehicle.

It is vital to reach the state of Emptiness which is completely free of any of the Four Extreme opinions about reality:

1. Eternalism (eternally existing being)

2. Nihilism (non-existent being)

3. Combination of both being and non-being

4. Non-existence of the combination of both being and non-being.

We should reflect over the meaning described in all the teachings and commentaries on the Middle Path of the mind, being free of all the extreme positions (such as the Four Extreme thought-patterns described above).

Even if our view (of our self and the world) is not based on the sound foundation of the Original True Ground ,we will, eventually, be able to reach the point of being completely free of all extreme views if we continue to re-establish the true view in our mind, over and over again. That way, all the delusion and mistaken opinions about reality will subside.

While we have, since time without beginning, clinging to a substantial and existing self, our true nature of being has gone unnoticed. We must, therefore, start walking in that new direction. Since we are unaware of the non-existent nature of reality, we lack the opportunity for True Insight to be born. In following the Extraordinary Doctrine of Buddha-Dharma of non-abiding, we realize that:

1. Form is Empty.

2. Emptiness is Form.

3. Form is no other than Emptiness.

4. Emptiness is no other than Form.

We are freed from all doubts of the Four or Eight Extreme opinions about reality and realize the inexpressible state of Mind of Absolute Truth, which is the Dharmadhatu of Emptiness and Appearance in Union.

In short, although appearances of samsara and nirvana seemingly appear, displaying expressions and meaning in an endless variation, their essence never leaves the Highest Meaning of being utterly Empty of True Existence, like the reflection of the moon on water. This is the View of the Non-abiding Peaceful Empty State of the Mahayana Vehicle.

The Principal Aspects of the methods presented in the Mahāmudrā (Chagchen) and Maha-Ati (Dzogchen) systems:

Generally, both systems include the teachings on gradual establishment of the correct view with instructions on systematic methods of meditation practices. In both systems, the establishment of the view is dependent upon correct meditation. Likewise, the meditation is based on a correct view. Both Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen teach systematic methods that are extraordinary in their results and equal in essence.

Both systems rely on the method of investigation and examination of reality and start out with the practices of Calm-Abiding (tib; shine, sanskrit; shamata). The intent and purpose of all the general and preliminary practices of taming (accumulating and purifying) in the Galwa Kagyupa Lineage is, to grant the practitioner with the opportunity to enter into such practices that lead to the realization of the Highest View of reality that both Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen systems have, and offer to the practitioner through their systematic systems on view and meditation.

It is explained that the two terms Mind (tib; sem) and Awareness (tib; rigpa) that are used in slightly different ways in the two systems are, in fact, not in contradiction to each other. In a similar way as the Mahāmudrā, Dzogchen also is a system of systematic methods of teachings. To clear away misunderstandings, Dzogchen, just as Mahāmudrā, belongs to the highest form of system of precise powers to point out the Dharmakaya, which is the Essence of Mind or Mahāmudrā. Although the words Mind and Awareness do appear as different words and appear to be different in the two systems, in fact, they stand for the same inner meaning.

The practitioner who not just only considers the common and apparent meaning, but who is also determined to identify the Innermost Reality, will, through the Superior Powers of these teachings, reach the mighty powers of the Absolute. Then, the mad and deluded mind of ego-clinging, will forever be Liberated into its Space-like Nature of the Great Expanse.

I pray, may I and all sentient beings quickly receive the blessing from our Great Root-Guru. May we all experience great fortune and happiness.

This has been translated from Tibetan into English by Trime Yeshe.

 

©2020 His Holiness Gyalten Sogdzin Rinpoche Official Website.

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