Words of Advice
from Kyabjé Chatral Rinpoche
with Commentary by Khenchen Tsewang Gyatso Rinpoche
There are some things that are more important than what we want to believe and what we don't want to believe, or what we like to believe and what we don't like to believe. We always need a great deal of wisdom and lots of intellectual understanding about surviving in the world and about the country and our educations, which are, of course, needed in our relative lives. Still, there are some things more important and more valuable that we must know and learn, some things that we are constantly going through both together and as individuals but that we have never noticed. So many things are constantly happening that one can easily not notice some of what is going on.
Impermanence is one of those things. On the coarse level of impermanence, we can directly experience that things do not hav e continuity. This table, for example, lasts for some time, but one day it will get old and break down and then there will be no further continuity of the table. Everything is like that, including one's body. One day when there is no continuity of the causes and conditions that support this physical body, what we call "consciousness" or "mind" will not remain in it, and nobody can stop this from happening. It is just the nature of life. There is no single example of anything that lasts forever. This is one of the things we need to know, that impermanence happens.
We also need to know the fact that there is very subtle impermanence, called "momentary impermanence," which we can understand through the example of the passing of time. We can look at our watches and see the hours, minutes, and seconds pass by very quickly. In the same way, our whole system-the entire universe, and planets, and earth, and one's body, heart, lungs, and mind-are going through change every moment. That is impermanence. Impermanence is happening every single second, but because the next moment and the next and the next are coming so quickly, one after the other, it looks like there is continuity.
Still, at any time, momentary impermanence can stop and we will be finished. At that time, who will help us? What will we do, and what will happen to us? This is true for all sentient beings-not just us humans-and nobody knows it. From billions of years in the past until now, how many beings, including our grandparents, have faced this same situation without knowing what happens when we stop existing? Therefore, it is very important from the spiritual or Buddhist point of view that we not only manage this life, but we should also prepare right now for the next life while we have the opportunity. As it is, we prepare only for tomorrow or next week or next month or next year. Maybe we already have a schedule for 2030, but no one has a schedule for the next life. Forgetting what is more important-what happens after this life-is a big mistake from the spiritual point of view or from the far-sighted point of view.These are the ideas developed in the teaching called "Words of Advice," by Chatral Rinpoche, who helped us recognize our late Holiness Penor Rinpoche's reincarnation. Chatral Rinpoche was born in 1913 and from a young age dedicated himself to studying Buddhist philosophy and receiving teachings and empowerments. When he was a teenager, he saw that there was no essence in the ordinary life of working and earning, that there was no happiness in these things, and he renounced ordinary life. He became like a homeless person, and with a Tibetan-style backpack he wandered into the wilderness and carried on his practice according to the instructions he received from his master. Whenever he became hungry, he would beg for food from the families who lived in that area. In this way he dedicated his life to spiritual practice and prepared for his next life and, moreover, for liberation from all rebirth in samsara and then complete enlightenment. For this reason, he gave up all aspirations for wealth and fame and all other worldly goals and spent all his time in spiritual practice. Because of that, he gained complete realization in one lifetime. This is why, when Holiness passed away in 2009, we at Namdroling Monastery went to Chatral Rinpoche and asked, "Would you please find the reincarnation of our Holiness?" We wrote a request and brought it to him in Nepal, where he lived in a small temple at a hermitage. He read through the request and finally agreed to locate Holiness' reincarnation. We were a little worried because he was already ninety-seven years old, and who knows what might happen to him before he recognized the reincarnation? He asked us to do a lot of prayers and pujas at the monastery, so a few thousand monks started accumulating lots of those prayers throughout the years of 2010, 2012, and 2013.
Finally, in late 2013 or maybe in 2014, he told us that the reincarnation had been born in a very remote area of Tibet. He gave us detailed information to help us find the reincarnation-the location, the family, etc.-almost like a GPS. It is amazing that sitting in Nepal, without going to Tibet and with no computers or advanced technology, Chatral Rinpoche was able to find all this information.
Another amazing aspect is that many Tibetan Buddhist parents were hoping that maybe their child would be the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche, so they would bring their child to Chatral Rinpoche's daughter (he had given up seeing people). They would say that their child had been born with very auspicious signs and that they had very auspicious dreams. Chatral Rinpoche's daughter told us at the monastery about seven of these children, and that, after waiting some time, she had showed the information to Rinpoche, but he had said, "No, no, no!" because he had such confidence in his own ability to find the child.
Eventually Holiness's reincarnation was recognized and, because Chatral Rinpoche is so revered and respected, no one in Palyul or any other school of Tibetan Buddhism has a single doubt or question about whether or not this child is the real reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche. This story is just one sign of what you can know through complete realization of the future and past and what is happening in other places, like behind the Himalaya Mountains. Those sorts of realizations are possible if we dedicate ourselves to these kinds of mind training and practices.
According to his own experience and realization, Chatral Rinpoche gave these "Words of Advice" for future generations. First of all, those who wish to be liberated from the suffering of samsara, those who wish to live happily in this and future lifetimes, those who wish to obtain complete enlightenment, which includes all such extraordinary qualities as clairvoyance and other miraculous abilities, should dedicate their lives to a path like the one taken by Chatral Rinpoche.
Chatral Rinpoche reached the age of 105 years before he died, living long enough to find the reincarnation of Penor Rinpoche. Because both he and Penor Rinpoche were disciples of the same master, they were very close. After Holiness's yangsi was enthroned in Tibet, Chatral Rinpoche was still alive and said, "Now my job is finished; I am ready to leave." But before he left, he said, "I'm not coming back for some time. Don't look for my reincarnation."
This shows that once you have that sort of realization, you have the freedom to choose whether or not you want to be reborn. Maybe you want to travel to some of the buddhafields and have a long vacation to relax and enjoy yourself with the buddhas or deities or bodhisattvas instead of coming back here to face all these problems and suffering. Those are possibilities when one has that sort of realization.
Now we have to ask, "What is realization, and what are we going to realize?" Realization is nothing other than one's own true nature of mind. From the Buddhist point of view, including that of the higher tantra teachings such as Dzogchen and Mahamudra, all sentient beings are capable of doing both good and bad. Ordinarily two opposite things cannot exist together.
For example, black and white or fire and water cannot be together; they are contradictory. But, in one's own pure nature, one's pure consciousness, or what is called one's "buddhanature," which is none other than the Buddha's enlightened mind itself, one has both. That is the truth actualized by Chatral Rinpoche and all other realized beings. Just the recognition and realization of one's true nature liberates one from the suffering of samsara and gives one complete freedom to be born or not. That is what it is to recognize, and that is what it is to realize: we are realizing our own buddhanature.
On the other hand, there is what is called "samsaric mind," the ordinary mind of all sentient beings. The problem is that ordinary mind is very ignorant, while buddhanature is fully enlightened. One is pure and fully enlightened and the other is fully ignorant. Both of those natures exist together in us, but at this moment the ignorant mind, the samsaric mind, has become very powerful and dominates buddhanature. But, when we attain enlightenment, buddhanature or the absolute true nature of mind helps purify the ignorant samsaric mind, and then buddhanature dominates our awareness and we become actualized; we become just as we are in primordial nature.
Like the sun and clouds, space always has dynamic openness-in space anything can happen. The sun shines every day with bright light and warmth and all the rest of its qualities, but at the same time clouds may come, some dark and some white, which don't allow the sun's rays to reach earth even though the sun is always shining. Within the sky there are both sun and clouds, and when clouds dominate the sky, the sun's rays cannot come through. Our samsaric mind is just like the clouds, and sunshine is like our buddhanature.
The openness of space is like the openness and dynamic power of the absolute nature of phenomena, which is known as "emptiness." We really need to know about emptiness, and we also need to know that, in reality, we are not other than an enlightened being's mind; we have that wisdom. This is what we need to give rise to and exercise and experience and then realize until finally that realization becomes so powerful it dominates and then eliminates the ignorance of samsaric mind. It is like when the sun clears out the clouds-you are just there; you are enlightened!
This is the most important topic in Buddhism, whether you study Sutrayana or the philosophical teachings or the Four Noble Truths teachings or Prajnaparamita or Vajrayana or Dzogchen or Mahamudra or whatever, because it is the actual reality. Whether you believe it or not or understand it or not, reality is just one; absolute truth is just one.
As I said earlier about the nature of impermanence, the impermanence nature of the phenomena of this life, this world, and the universe doesn't depend on whether you believe in it or not. The truth of impermanence doesn't depend on your culture or belief system or rules and regulations-none of that matters. No religious leader or enlightened master can prevent impermanence. The process of one's life, the process of this world, and the process of enlightenment happen by themselves. It is very profound and vast; it is as vast as the universe, and it is as profound as space. Space is infinite, it is beyond limitation, just as the true nature of mind is beyond limitation. It has that much capacity, or from the Western point of view you might say, infinite energy. And that infinite energy has somehow been covered up by this ignorant, samsaric mind.
So, if we want to get out of this ignorant mind, we need to find the proper knowledge, we have to find the path that we should follow, and we need to know what we should train in. We don't have to change anything in the external world. Everything that exists in the world is the creation or projection of our own mind. If there is something you like, it is your mind projecting those qualities and your mind saying, "I like this." To dislike something is also one's mental projection. Likes and dislikes are all mental activities we go through as we engage with the six senses and the six sense objects. It is all the mind.
Because we project qualities on external phenomena, nothing exists just by itself, the way it is. We always see things as ugly or beautiful. One moment we like everything we see, and the next moment, when the mind changes, we dislike everything we see. In this way, the habitual tendencies of one's mind create the quality of one's whole existence, from beginningless lifetimes till now.
As sentient beings, we cannot find our beginning; we cannot find when we came on this earth. Our lifetimes have continued such that they have become beginningless, and from that beginningless time we have been wandering, and not always in a human form. We have taken birth as all sorts of other creatures, even sometimes as gods and demi-gods. Sometimes we are born as males, sometimes as females, and sometimes as neutral-there are lots of neutral human beings, especially in India! We have been born as all sorts of animals, as hungry ghost beings, and as beings living in the hells. All those forms exist, whether you like it or not, whether you really believe it or not.
Our samsaric minds are so ignorant that the light of our primordial nature is just a little, tiny ray. We haven't exercised enough of our capability of the infinite qualities of the human mind. Science calls it the brain, but the brain is limited. The brain is substantial and so it is limited by its substance, but the mind is insubstantial and is therefore unlimited and unfathomable.
These are important things that you need to learn, that you need to understand, and that you need to research to find out who you are and what you are doing here. This is more valuable than the kind of knowledge that you get educated in and graduate from and then find a job and work and work and then die. Is that our only purpose in being born here? Or is there more to know about ourselves?
Though we may live to be eighty, ninety, or even one hundred years old, by the time we reach our sixties and seventies we see that we are becoming very weak. One's ordinary mind and physical body are just a
composite of causes and conditions that naturally go through a process of damage; they are subject to change. That is what we experience. Now that I am sixty-seven years old, I already notice that my brain is not as sharp as before and my eyesight is diminishing. I see white hairs, and there are other problems here and there.
This process does not happen overnight like in fairy tales where some great change happens overnight. Changes happen every single moment, and then, after a while, we begin to notice that things are different. Just as a child grows up, we are growing old, and then where are we going? All these changes lead to the end of one's life, and there is no way one can escape from that.
So, if we are really smart, we will prepare for it. This is really, really very important. It is what Chatral Rinpoche is talking about. We should know what is happening and what we have to do before it is too late. That is the essence of this teaching and what people who have practiced ngöndro have learned about the precious human existence. Right now we have a precious human form, and with that precious form we have the precious human brain that functions in a way that no other brain is able to. The human form with the human brain has the intelligence and capability to attain enlightenment. We can do it but we have to know how-unless one really enjoys samsara, having all sorts of fun at the golf course, eating ice cream, drinking alcohol, traveling here and there discovering all these resort areas in different countries with different cultures. But at the end, what do you get? The ngöndro teaches about the precious human form, but also, "All things born must die." All compounded phenomena made up of causes and conditions are subject to change and decay.
Ngöndro also teaches about the law of karma. Many people think that the law of karma is just a part of the Buddhist belief system, but karma is not just for Buddhists. Of course it is true that Buddha taught about karma, but the law of karma, based on whether what we do through body, speech, and mind is virtuous or non-virtuous, is universal. All religions and belief systems have virtues and non-virtues. Virtue is that which benefits oneself and others. Any sort of action of body, speech, or mind that benefits others and oneself is called virtue. Any sort of action of the body, speech, or mind that harms oneself and others is non-virtue.
At the end of the day, even those who harm others realize that they have done something wrong. They feel regret at the end of the day. They do! It is not like they think everything they do is always right. Temporarily, with minds and brains full of ignorance and obscuration, they do lots of negative things, but at the end of the day, when they calm down, they know they should not have done such things. Because of the capability of the human brain to recognize in reality what is good and what is bad, people do realize.
Now scientists are saying that basic human nature is positive, that loving kindness, compassion, and caring are part of our nature. Even those doing very negative things love their families and their communities. They have that sort of compassion. But, because of ignorance, there is attachment to what is called "my" and aversion to "other." Such minds become so polarized that everything is distinguished into likes and dislikes, into "mine" and "other." Then their minds become so confused and conflicted that their actions are not always virtuous. And all actions have their own consequences. No one has to be there to judge whether the actions are virtuous or not. No one has to be there to apply the laws of the country, because there is the international law of karma, of consequences: you yourself receive all the positive consequences for the good things you do. For the bad things, you get negative results. The karmic results of actions are 100 percent sure in the way they activate and manifest and ripen over time.
One may think, I have never done anything bad, so why do I have so much trouble? Why am I disliked by people? The reason is that one has planted negative seeds in the past and now causes and conditions have
enabled the seeds to sprout and grow and have their own effects. This is the law of karma and it is the fault of samsara. This is why, in the ngöndro, we go through the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Toward Dharma and toward virtuous, spiritual training, rather than always being dictated to by our ignorant minds that contain so many afflictive emotions that arise naturally as anger, jealousy, hatred, pride, envy, craving, and so many more. These cause so much suffering for ourselves and for others.
All those afflictive emotions are on our negative side. But we also have a positive side of love, caring, compassion, devotion, and all the other good qualities. So we have to know which are good for ourselves and for others. And, when these two types of qualities arise, the good and the bad, we should know which is right and which is wrong. Which is beneficial for ourselves and others and which is harmful for ourselves and others? We have to educate ourselves in the qualities of actions, how they ripen, and how they reach fruition. We have to educate ourselves in all this to have a better life.
Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen's text, "Departing from the Four Attachments," is a lot like Chatral Rinpoche's "Words of Advice." It, too, teaches what is to be considered when one dedicates oneself to spiritual training rather than ignorantly wandering in samsara. How can we follow the right path? It is 100 percent sure that everyone wishes to live happily and peacefully forever and ever. Is that possible or not? It is definitely possible, because all beings that have followed the right path, like all the enlightened beings, live happily forever.
Not only that, they also benefit billions and billions of beings by leading them onto the same right path. That is what it means to be an enlightened being or buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha is the one given that name, but we can all become buddhas-we have that potential, we have that capability. Anyone can become a buddha.
If you want to find the right path to become a buddha, here are the words of advice. No matter what sort of education you get in this world, you get it from a teacher. In whatever way you may wish to become more expert or more specialized, you have to learn from a teacher. If you want to be a great singer, you have to learn from a great singing teacher. If you want to be a scientist, you have to find the right teacher. This is true for all the fields of education. So, if you want to be a great spiritual master, you have to learn from a spiritual master. If you truly want to be liberated from the suffering of samsara, you have to learn from a master who has the experience of liberation. Information about the spiritual world, like what happens after death, is still very obscured. From kindergarten to the universities, nobody explains what happens after death. It is completely obscured!
Only realized masters who have an enlightened mind can see what happens after death. No matter what belief system one might have based on doctrines or philosophies-and there are many religions and philosophies that all have their own explanations of what happens after death-because every individual has his or her own habitual tendencies and characteristics, there is no single doctrine or explanation that works for every individual. In the Lankavatara Sutra, Buddha said, "Until the conceptual mind is completely purified, there will be limitless belief systems and ways of thinking."
This is why, in Buddhism, there are nine vehicles. Whoever wants to follow one of those nine paths must have the right teacher. But, when it comes to the path that represents the highest view, the highest tantra called the Great Perfection or Mahamudra or the Middle Path, it is the teacher or guru who shows you the path from this point all the way to enlightenment. A teacher therefore becomes very important in one's life because that guru will finally introduce you to your primordial pure nature, which means introducing you to your buddhanature.
When you follow this highest tantra path and go through all the practices and experiences, you have many realizations. It is like driving from here down to Miami. If you listen to someone who has traveled that route and can tell you which roads to take and what to look out for, you will not have any trouble. In the same way, if you engage in these practices, you will have all sorts of experiences. You will see that impermanence is a real experience, not just a belief or doctrine. You will see that your mind has so much capacity, and you will understand why the law of karma is so important. You will think, Now I understand because now I experience it.
If you don't do practice, no matter how much knowledge you have, nothing happens. When you practice, you really feel it, you experience it, you realize it. That is the kind of guidance given by a teacher. That is why we listen to Chatral Rinpoche, who was taught on the basis of the realization of his master, and who passed this on to many others. And that is why people like Chatral Rinpoche have so much respect and devotion to their masters. Without such a master, beings are completely dependent on their own actions and karma, good or bad.
After death, the law of karma will take your consciousness to the place where you belong. Not your own will but the causes and conditions you yourself have created in this life determine where you will be reborn. You might think, I don't want to be reborn as a lobster or a skunk, I want to be reborn as a human! At the end of your life, though, there is no free will. Your free will is right now. Right now you can choose whether you want to go upwards or downwards, whether you want to experience ultimate happiness or wander endlessly in samsara. Right now we can learn to recognize the right path and follow it to fruition. All this is very possible, and it is how the buddhas have taught and how billions of beings got liberated. Even today, at this time, lots of practitioners are attaining liberation.
THE ACTUAL TEXT
Precious master of unrepayable kindness, Pema Ledrel Tsal,
Remain as the crown ornament on the top of my head, I pray!
Grant your blessings so that we may find freedom here and now
From all the sufferings of samsara and its lower realms!
For these reasons Chatral Rinpoche begins his "Words of Advice" with a dedication to his guru that says, "Precious master of unrepayable kindness...." Chatral Rinpoche says this because all the instructions and guidance that he received from his master and put into practice resulted in realization. He sees now that none of this would have been possible without the kindness of his teacher.
He asks for the master's blessings "so we may find freedoms here and now." He is not asking for the blessing for himself, he is asking on behalf of all beings so that they will not have to continue recycling in samsara through the six classes of beings or the six realms of existence.
In the lowest realm there are hell beings who experience nothing but suffering their whole lifetimes. Another lower realm is the spirit realm of the hungry ghost beings, who also suffer very much. Then there is the animal realm that we already know a lot about from watching Animal Planet and National Geographic, where we see them hunting and being hunted and suffering in other ways, even those nice, very beautiful deer that are not harming anybody. They just eat grass and drink water, walking by trees and in meadows, but they are always being attacked by scary animals like lions and tigers. Why would a deer have to be born as food for a tiger? The same is true for all the animals who seem to be born only to become food for human beings.
Because of our ignorance, nobody seems to know what the lives of these animals are like, how much they suffer. But these animals also have consciousness, and where there is consciousness there is feeling, so even though they might not know much, they feel their own suffering. Of course, their karma accumulated in previous lifetimes has caused their rebirth as animals, but our capacity as human beings for compassion should be used to prevent as much of their suffering as possible.
In the upper realms are we human beings and also the demigods, called asuras in Sanskrit. Even in the Western world we have the concept of demigods. Finally, there are the god realms, where everything is very nice for a while, but at the end the gods may fall down into the lower realms. In that way, beings in all the realms of cyclic existence are always going up and down, like a ride at Six Flags-you go up and it is exciting, but then you go down very fast and it is very scary. The body dies and is cremated and it just goes away, but there is a consciousness associated with buddhanature that goes on and on and does not die. That buddhanature is our essence, our absolute reality, which is not based on impermanent causes and conditions and does not get recycled by the law of karma through the six realms of samsara.
Listen well, my dear disciples who are gathered here,
For all those whose hearts have not been spoiled, consider this:
The chances of finding a human existence are one in a hundred.
Chatral Rinpoche asks his disciples "whose hearts have not been spoiled" by the distractions of samsaric life, those who have had a glimpse of buddhanature arising in their minds and want to follow a spiritual path, to "listen well." Consider that the chances of finding a human life are one in one hundred lifetimes. The book Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche explains very clearly that the right karma in the form of certain virtuous, meritorious causes and conditions must exist in order to obtain a human life. This is also true in order to be born as a demigod or in the god realms, which requires not only the right causes and conditions, but also accomplishment in shamatha meditation. In order to be born as a human, one must have at least 60 to 70 percent virtuous behavior in one's past life time. Among that virtuous assemblage are aspiration prayers to be born as a human as well as certain aspects of all six perfections of generosity, moral conduct, patience, perseverance, meditation, and wisdom. So we must look into this and see how well we have maintained those. When you consider the population of Pensacola, the number of people who have accomplished these aspects or who are even just interested in entering a spiritual path is very, very small. When we calculate and examine the chances for gaining a human rebirth, we see that they are very small.
Now that you have found one, if you fail to practise the sublime Dharma,
How could you possibly expect to find such an opportunity again?
Conceiving of your body as a servant or a thing to ferry you about,
Do not allow it to rest in idleness for even a single moment;
Use it well, spurring on your entire body, speech and mind to virtue.
It is only once in a blue moon that one gains a human form, but it is also rare to have a human form that includes all the conditions that support the path to enlightenment. Having found a human form with all the conditions for attaining liberation, if one fails to take full advantage of this opportunity without working hard to assemble the causes and conditions for another one, how could one expect to find another opportunity like it? Being born as a human is not an accident-it depends on what we have done. Look at this table. See how its existence depends on wood, and on trees and a carpenter, and on so many more causes and conditions. More complicated forms, such as houses and cars, depend on much more 26
complicated causes and conditions. Imagine how many and how complex the causes and conditions for a human existence must be! The crucial point is that once we have this opportunity, we can do much good for ourselves and for others by dedicating ourselves to a valid spiritual path.
You might spend your whole life pursuing only food and clothing,
With great effort and without regard for suffering or harmful deeds,
But when you die you cannot take even a single thing with you - consider this well.
For most of us, the only thing that stands in our way is that we are never satisfied with what we have. Our car may be working fine, but when a new one comes out with more features, we just have to have it. What kind of iPhone do you have? Is it a 5 or a 6? It works well, doesn't it? It does everything you need it to do, but when the iPhone 7 or 8 comes out, then everyone has to have it! We need to have everything that is new and exciting, and we also need more and more of it. We are greedy, and we are competitive. If someone has something new, then we have to have it too.
All these emotions control so much of everything we do, and to satisfy our emotions we spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time. Since we have such great potential as human beings, we should try not to be so distracted by less important things. Through one's body, speech, and mind, one can either activate that potential or leave it dormant. One can transform one's life from something very ordinary to something that is extraordinary. Just as companies analyze and plan and work on their products so that they become better and better and more capable, we can also work on ourselves to become better and more noble, and eventually to become realized beings. Otherwise, we could spend our whole lives doing things that we think need to be done, like getting an education, a job, a nice house, a car, and everything else we see people around us doing. From childhood until now we have been working tirelessly and with great effort to get these things that we need for a comfortable lifestyle. But, as Chatral Rinpoche says, when you die, you cannot take a single thing with you. Everything you have done, you have done for this life, but what about the next one?
You might dine on the finest meal of delicious meat and alcohol,
But it all turns into something impure the very next morning,
And there is nothing more to it all than that.
Maybe we cannot do as Chatral Rinpoche did, just wander into the wilderness and do spiritual practice all the time, but there is so much that we can do to nurture our buddhanature! No one else is going to do that for us because the whole system that we live in draws us out into the samsaric field. Chatral Rinpoche reminds us that we can dine on the most delicious food and wine, but it turns into something impure by the next morning. In the same way, at the end of our lives, even if we have had a lot of fun, our bodies become a waste product. So, it's better to be content with our lives and also do spiritual practice to realize our essence. That never becomes a waste product!
So be content with life-sustaining provisions and simple clothes,
And be a loser when it comes to food, clothing and conversation.
Buddha said that once one has satisfaction, one is rich. Even if you have everything, if you are dissatisfied you always have to have more and more. Satisfaction is in the mind, not in external things. It is better to be rich in spiritual qualities than in material things. Chatral Rinpoche's advice to be content with a simple life leaves time to do spiritual practices, study spiritual books, and contemplate spiritual teachings.
Within the context of the teachings on relative and absolute truth, we see that one's own activity-mental, verbal, and physical-creates the causes and conditions that bring happiness or help get rid of suffering. This is the law of karma. Every day through these activities we accumulate some kind of karma. Knowing what karma is and how it works is very crucial to understanding relative truth.
We also need to know that the main source of our activities and the resulting karma is our mind. Mind is like the king, and speech and the body are like ministers who follow the orders of the king. A king who is kind and generous gives commands to his ministers, and they carry out orders in the form of kind and generous actions. So, if one has a mind that is very positive, then one's words and actions are also very positive. But, if one's mind is negative, what one verbalizes and does is typically also very negative.
All the teachings of Buddhism concentrate on and emphasize the mind, explaining both how the mind works and how to work with one's own mind. According to that, a very simple and easy way to follow the right path or the right spiritual practice or establish the right causes and conditions that will bring happiness for oneself and all others is just to have a positive mind and what is called a "kind heart." A kind heart and a kind mind bring good results for everyone. Still, sometimes it is difficult to maintain a kind heart and kind mind because all sentient beings are born with afflictive emotions that may obstruct and obscure kindness.
All of this means that if one wants to have happiness and not suffering in this and in future lives, it is all in one's own hands, in one's own control. One has to learn to manage one's mind by generating compassion, tolerance, patience, kindness, and other such qualities as bring happiness to oneself and others. If one can maintain one's mind in such a way, definitely one does not have to experience any more suffering.
However, because there are so many causes and conditions for problems to arise, without training in these qualities that help us to manage our minds, by not practicing them and not being mindful about them, problems will seem to increase and cause nothing but suffering for ourselves, our families, and others. This is a very important part of this teaching. Even if we don't know much about Buddhist philosophy or other spiritual teachings, if we follow this path of abandoning all sorts of negativity in our daily lives, we will come to the right path. We can try to generate a mind that is compassionate, loving, and kind to all beings immediately when we get up in the morning instead of right away getting caught up in emotions and thoughts of problems, of what might happen and what might not happen in the family, at work, in the market, or anywhere else. Doing that is a complete spiritual practice that can train one to be a good and noble person, and that can change the whole system of one's life in the present and in the future.
To help people go through this kind of training there are teachings like this "Words of Advice" by Chatral Rinpoche. This is advice for people who have taken up spiritual training: people in monastic life, lay practitioners who are in retreat, or anyone who truly wants to follow a spiritual path rather than live the life of an ordinary person. This advice will help one gain stability in practice; it will help one experience what is meant by "the precious human form" and how to make use of it; it will give one the true meaning of impermanence and the truth of uncertain death and what one may have to face after that; and it will give one a deeper understanding of the law of karma and how to use it for one's own and others' benefit. Through such advice we can see the nature of samsara in our own lives.
Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means "cyclic existence," which means that all beings cycle through all the realms of samsara, sometimes in the hells, sometimes in the god realms, sometimes human, sometimes animal, and so on. Through this cyclic process one's consciousness experiences the actual results of one's actions. In ancient Tibet, lamas sometimes taught people about the nature of samsara by telling them about the ocean and how the big fish eat the smaller fish, the smaller fish eat the smallest fish, and so on. No one there had ever seen the ocean! Now, however, everyone watches television and sees very clearly, almost like direct perception, how animals are suffering. This kind of suffering is true not just in the animal realm. In the human world, whether we live in a third-world country or not, as long as a human's mind is not properly trained, so long as it has not developed virtuous or spiritual qualities, humans cause all kinds of suffering for each other.
All we need to know about how to prevent suffering is what sort of mind to train in. If we train in a peaceful, compassionate mind, there would be almost no more human suffering. That is why this world now needs the teachings of Buddhism and what it explains in so much detail about compassion and loving kindness and bodhicitta, which is the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. We need this because even though there are peaceful areas of the world, there is still so much suffering.
At about three o'clock, in the house where we are staying here in Gulf Breeze, we have some tea or coffee and a cookie and open the television to watch a little bit. In all the shows people are having so many problems. How can we not generate compassion for people who suffer with so many problems? So much negative thought, so much ignorance, so much pride, and so much discrimination.
Seeing all of this, we can easily generate compassion and feel some urgency to do better practice to attain enlightenment so that one can benefit them. Right now it is not so easy to help anybody. It is very difficult unless we have the realization to perform all sorts of miraculous activities, like clairvoyance and other powers and other displays, like Buddha did-which he displayed in front of thousands of people so that they could become devoted and receive teachings and follow the path and finally attain their own realization. This is what the world needs today in order to live in a peaceful, harmonious way instead of with all these afflictive emotions and the suffering they cause. For that purpose we watch ourselves, and even when we meet very negative persons, we know there is no use in feeling angry. There is no use at all in being negative to them because they don't know what they are doing. The only thing that will help is more compassion and more loving kindness, more spiritual training.
Even though many people now believe that we should live in a more peaceful way, there are still so many problems. Like in another aspect of Chatral Rinpoche's aspiration prayer, in this degenerating period of time many countries have nuclear weapons and are prepared to attack other countries if they are attacked. Who is losing in that kind of situation? Everyone is losing! What is the benefit of taking the lives of almost all sentient beings? I don't think anybody is looking for that. To prevent that kind of thing, we train ourselves and teach our families so that from generation to generation we can transform this wild world into a more peaceful world. We all have this responsibility. It's not that easy to engage in practice and make the commitment to follow the path that Chatral Rinpoche advises, but it makes sense when we see the truth and the logical reasoning behind it. Moreover, as we talked about earlier, we can do it. We have within us the buddhanature that makes it possible for us to be better and kinder and then to help our communities be more peaceful and harmonious.
RESUMING THE TEXTUAL COMMENTARY
If you do not reflect on death and impermanence,
There will be no way to practise Dharma purely,
Practice will remain an aspiration, one that is constantly postponed,
And you may feel regret the day that death comes, but by then it will be too late!
We have to be more mindful of our actions, but at the same time we can also be mindful of the true nature of impermanence and the uncertainty of death. If we remain unaware of it and don't reflect on it or prepare for it, instead always being very optimistic and thinking that we will always be fine and healthy and that death is still a long time away, we will be deceiving ourselves-it is a delusion. If we think like that, there is no way to do or practice dharma purely or in a more spiritual way; there is no way to train our minds to become pure consciousnesses that are in possession of all the pure human qualities of kindness and compassion.
This pure nature is difficult to maintain because, every time a problem or obstacle occurs, a negative, afflictive emotion comes up and we get distracted. How can we continue our spiritual practice without getting distracted by problems? We begin by aspiring to be better practitioners in order to become kinder, more loving, more compassionate people, but if we don't work to train right now, it will remain only an aspiration. Having such an aspiration is good, but we have to make a commitment to work right now with mindfulness, to both remind ourselves and to exercise greater vigilance over what we are doing with our body, speech, and mind.
We might learn all this, but if we don't become the right teacher for ourselves, who else can help to train us? One has to learn, understand, and then be the teacher of oneself. One has to do just as parents train children by watching them and saying, "Don't do that!" as soon as they do something wrong. Teachers do the same; they watch over their students and when they do something incorrectly, they get corrected.
Of course, it is not always this way in the modern world. Parents and teachers do not always take the responsibility to correct kids. In Tibetan culture, all adults can correct children and parents will spank them or give them some other kind of punishment to discourage them from making that same kind of mistake again. But now things are different. In one way, it is good that it is no longer okay to beat children, but then they can become very prideful and think that they can do anything they like. There is a funny story of a Tibetan family that moved to California and put the kids in school there. In school, the teacher told the children, "If any you have any problem, you can call 9-1-1."
The older kid was a teenager and he started to talk funny and forget his manners and misbehave in other ways. His father corrected him, but he did not change. Finally, when his father was going to give him some real punishment, the kid said, "If you do, I will call 9-1-1!"
His father spanked him anyway. So the teenager called 9-1-1 and the police came and took the father to the station. There he explained how parents in Tibet discipline their children without being mean or angry, so they told him not to spank in the future and let him go.
Later on, the kid's behavior got worse and worse, but the father did not know what to do. One day he said, "Let us all go to India to see our grandparents!" So they all flew on an airplane and got off at Delhi Airport. After they went through customs and everything, the father grabbed his son and said, "How often I have explained to you how to be a good boy and you never listen-now take this!"
He spanked the boy really good and then said, "Now you can call your 9-1-1!"
Like that, there are ways, sometimes peaceful and sometimes more wrathful, to correct our behavior. Maybe we want to correct others, but before we can do that we have to correct ourselves. That is why we need mindfulness, conscientiousness, and vigilance.
If we don't discipline ourselves and only aspire to do practice and then always postpone it until there is a better time-maybe next weekend, next month, or next year-when death does come, we may feel regret
because we have not done any real practice and we have not done anything really good or kind or beneficial to others. But then there is no more time to correct ourselves. So, if we are wise and intelligent people, we have to make a correction now, before we come to the end of life.
All of what Chatral Rinpoche is saying is simple and easy. Anybody can understand what he is saying, but if it does not get planted in one's mind then one cannot be mindful of what one does, and then there is no way one can help oneself or anybody else.
There is no real happiness among any of the six classes of beings,
But if we consider the sufferings of the three lower realms,
Then, when you feel upset just by hearing about them,
How will you possibly cope when you experience them directly?
In general, there is no happiness among any of the six realms of cyclic existence-life is short and includes a lot of suffering. Hell beings experience a whole lifetime of suffering. Hungry ghost beings are a little better off than hell beings, but still about 80 to 90 percent of their lives is suffering. There are so many categories in the animal realm; some, like insects, survive for only about an hour before they are eaten or crushed by something, and therefore they have no time for freedom of happiness. In the human realm we have temporary happiness, but still it is overwhelmed by all kinds of sufferings, which come one after another.
We don't like to hear about these things, but it is better to know so that we can prepare for them by applying antidotes. If we read about the six realms or six classes of beings in the sutras or in many of the commentaries, like the Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu, we see so much suffering that it is frightening. When we see how animals are killed for food for humans, there is so much torture that it is unbearable. How would you feel if that were you or your family? When we look into the past, when powerful leaders tortured and killed so many people, it seems almost unimaginable that they could be so cruel and cunning. If we had to face that kind of suffering, how would we cope with it? No matter how much we may look for protection, guidance, or help, where would we find it?
We have to be strong enough to bear our own karma. It is a little like the people who commit crimes and are finally caught by the laws of their country and imprisoned or sentenced to death. At that time, they also look for protection and help, but their families and friends cannot help them; they must bear the consequences of their actions by themselves. They cannot transfer the consequences of their actions to someone else. In the relative world, sometimes people are able to escape their punishments through bribery or in other ways, but there is no escape from the law of karma. That is why we have to be careful and watch our actions on all levels.
Even the happiness and pleasures of the three upper realms
Are just like fine food that's been laced with poison -
Enjoyable at first, but in the long run a cause of ruin.
We see that the three lower realms of existence are mostly filled with suffering. The three upper realms do have some pleasure, enjoyment, and fun, but-like very delicious food that contains poison is very enjoyable while one is eating it-at the end there is suffering. It is something like smoking or having an addiction to drugs or alcohol-they both seem like fun and don't kill you instantly, but in the long run the addiction causes sickness and problems that doctors cannot cure.
Chatral Rinpoche says it is almost impossible to cure these problems once they become established and so much easier to prevent them. It is much wiser to do the right thing from the very beginning so that one does not have to face suffering and pain.
What's more, all these experiences of pleasure and pain
Are not brought about by anyone but you yourself.
They are produced by your very own actions, good and bad.
Once you know this, it's crucial that you act accordingly,
Without confusing what should be adopted and abandoned.
Of course, it is okay to have experiences of pleasure and happiness, but at the same time one should not fall into extremes. One should have some spiritual practice and training so that one does not exhaust all of one's merit. Since our own actions in the past have produced our experiences of pleasure and pain in the present, only we ourselves can decide whether our lives will be pleasurable or painful.
It is the same as planting a chili seed-of course a chili plant will grow from it. We have to know what a virtuous action is and what a negative, non-virtuous action is, and then plant the seeds of virtuous actions so that the causes and conditions that support virtue will collect around us and support our happiness. Not everyone knows the difference between virtuous and non-virtuous actions, but once one knows, all one has to do is act on it. There are people who perform negative actions who should know better, but they have been overcome or brainwashed by their afflictive emotions, so they act as if they do not have the proper knowledge.
Whether people have not been taught or whether people have been overcome by their afflictions, the result is that they suffer from ignorance. They are confused, they are in the dark, they do not know what to do and what not to do. They can only be helped by developing some wisdom, some insight into the reality of their situation. That is why we should train ourselves in compassion and wisdom, so that we can help ourselves, our family, our community, our country, and so on.
It is far better to eliminate your doubts and misconceptions,
By relying on the instructions of your own qualified teacher,
Than to receive many different teachings and never take them any further.
Here Chatral Rinpoche talks about the difficulty of removing doubts. Because we're not enlightened, and because we don't have enough knowledge of and wisdom in the whole system of existence, life, and karma, we need to educate ourselves in these fields, not only in science and engineering and mathematics. We have to know as much about our own system of operating as a car technician knows about a car. Even though we know how to drive a car, if our car stops running, we don't know enough to fix it.
There are things we need to know about ourselves that are very relative things, very external, and very substantial. There are also more subtle aspects in relation to our lives, such as suffering, happiness, and the consequences of actions. We need enough knowledge to eliminate all doubts or misconceptions in these more subtle relative areas of our lives. If we don't have enough knowledge, we have to gain it by relying on the instructions of our qualified teachers. From them we can learn more and more about the spiritual fields so that we can definitely help ourselves and others have a better life. If we do that, we will have no regret at the end of life. We will know that we have done our best to benefit self and others, and our moment of death will be peaceful.
If you do not have a qualified teacher nearby, there are many, many books about Buddhism that you can read and study to learn about the inner qualities that have not only temporary but also good effects in the long run, effects that are meaningful and beneficial, and even include liberation from samsara and enlightenment. So, we should try to listen to more teachings and read more books, but we should also contemplate how much our knowledge makes sense and how true it is, how really logical it is, and how beneficial it can be for anyone. We reflect on or contemplate these things very thoroughly, and when we are convinced that everything is logical and makes sense, we have no reason not to practice. Why would one not follow what one is convinced is true and beneficial? If something is true, if it is meaningful, if it is beneficial, if it works, why is one not training?
Knowledge has to be put into practice or else it will not do any good, just like a doctor uses knowledge to prescribe medication and do other things in order to cure a patient. Having a great deal of knowledge in
Buddhist philosophy, in the Vajrayana or the Great Perfection, is not enough, just as, when feeling a pain in one's body, having the knowledge that there is pain will not reduce or eliminate it, and we just have to bear it. But, by applying what we have gained through knowledge and realization to the experience of pain, we can also realize the illusory nature of the pain and liberate it.
You might remain in a solitary place, physically isolated from the world,
Yet fail to let go of ordinary concerns, and, with attachment and aversion,
Seek to bring defeat upon your enemies while furthering the interests of your friends,
And involve yourself in all kinds of projects and financial dealings.
There could hardly be anything worse than that.
After studying, learning, and understanding all about Buddhism, if one feels that one wants to be a more serious practitioner, one can begin meditation, but to do such practice one needs to be in a quiet place. The meditator should be in a place that is physically quiet and isolated but he or she also needs to be mentally quiet and isolated, with no afflictive emotions, conceptual thinking, and discursive thoughts, nothing other than single-pointed meditation. All the buddhas and great realized masters followed this same path because that is how one can achieve liberation.
As we know, Buddha Shakyamuni was raised in a palace but gave up that life because, even there, there was suffering. He searched for a teacher and received many teachings, but it was still not enough, so he dedicated himself to very serious meditation for six years, not caring about clothing or food or shelter. This is the same path Chatral Rinpoche followed. He lived alone in caves and then built a very small temple where he lived and taught a small number of students. He remained very isolated so that he could escape all the distractions and problems of the world.
Although one might be isolated in a cave or in the forest, if one's mind is not isolated from the kind of thinking that goes on in the world, if one does not really concentrate on practice, even a three-year retreat will not bring much benefit. If one holds on to any kind of attraction and aversion, one is not really in retreat; there is no true practice or true dharma. Giving up the attractions and aversions of samsaric life is renunciation, and renunciation should happen when we take refuge and see the fault of samsara, which is that, within all six realms, there is no essence or real meaning. If we are not truly renounced and our minds are busy with worldly concerns, we will not find satisfaction or contentment in either a spiritual life or worldly life.
If you lack the wealth of contentment in your mind,
You'll think you need all kinds of useless things,
And end up even worse than just an ordinary person,
Because you won't manage even a single session of practice.
Being content with your life is very important and very easy. You do not need many pairs of shoes because you can only wear one pair at a time. You can only drive one car at a time, so there's no point in having several cars. If you are not content with what you have, there is no satisfaction in your mind or being and you always want more. Then you have to think a lot and plan and work and get very tired, and this goes on until death overtakes us. At that point, it doesn't matter how many fancy cars you have in the garage-you can't drive when you die. Milarepa said, "I have hundreds of horses to ride, but the moment I die I walk by myself. I have enough wealth to last one hundred years, but when I die I go empty-handed."
There is no real meaning to having more than we need. Rather than having too much, it is better to feel satisfaction and contentment. Without contentment we feel we need more and more things and our attachment and clinging become stronger and stronger until our last moment. And then we cannot let the attachment and clinging go, and those powerful emotions control our rebirth, leading to an unhappy existence in the hungry ghost realm.
So set your mind on freedom from the need for anything at all.
Wealth, success and status are all simply ways of attracting enemies and demons.
Pleasure-seeking practitioners who fail to turn their minds from this life's concerns
Sever their connection to the authentic Dharma.
There is a story from the Buddha's time about one of Buddha's followers who died and, when the other monks cleaned out his cell, they found a gold coin among his things. The talked about what do with the coin and agreed to give it to the poorest person in the village, but they could not agree who the poorest person was, so they went to the Buddha. He said, "Give the coin to the king. He is the poorest person in the village because no matter how much he has, it is never enough." So, it is better to let go of all attachments and clinging related to samsaric possessions and wealth, all the eight worldly concerns, because they are distractions from real spiritual practice and it will not help at the end of life when one really needs it.
We have talked about attachment to wealth and possessions, but there are four main attachments that one should let go of. One is attachment to this life. If one is attached to this life, then one is not a practitioner-one is just like every other ordinary person. Another attachment is attachment to the three realms of samsara, which means one has attachment to the pleasures and joys of the upper realms. One has this attachment when one does not have any renunciation. Then there is attachment to oneself, one's own interests and benefit, and this type of attachment means one does not have bodhicitta. There is also attachment to the material reality of things and their characteristics, which reveals itself in grasping and clinging to things. This is attachment to the view that all phenomena of samsara are intrinsically real, and it means that one does not have transcendent wisdom.
These are some crucial points that we need to realize in order to let go of the most powerful attachments in our life. It is not easy to immediately let go of an attachment, but it gets easier as one studies, contemplates, and then trains one's mind and realizes the true meaning of these abandonments and their true benefit in this lifetime and future lifetimes. Abandoning these attachments in this lifetime means that one gets some relief from the stress and worry that these attachments cause. Life gets very simple and easy. And, in the ultimate sense, one is establishing the causes and conditions for liberation.
Take care to avoid becoming stubbornly impervious to the teachings.
Limit yourself to just a few activities and undertake them all with diligence.
Not allowing your mind to become fidgety and restless,
Make yourself comfortable on the seat in your retreat cabin,
This is the surest way to gain the riches of a Dharma practitioner.
Most of what Chatral Rinpoche has discussed so far has been about encouraging people to take up serious dharma practice. Now he begins to give some advice to those who already are committed to practice. First of all, one should not think that one has understood the teachings even though one may have heard them many times. Sometimes one has heard all these teachings, but unless one contemplates them and meditates upon them there will be no sense of experiencing them, and then whatever benefits the teachings could have brought will not appear. If we hear teachings only on the level of knowledge then we are getting used to them without making use of them.
Another thing good practitioners do is to gradually give up more and more samsaric activities so that they can avoid distractions and have more time to relax into serious practice without worrying too much about worldly things. The more one becomes dedicated to these practices the less time one wants to waste in other things, so that one can achieve something meaningful in this lifetime. When Dudjom Lingpa was practicing in isolation he practiced in a high cave that he had to climb up to. Many times when he was climbing to his cave he thought, I really should build at least one step so that this will be easier. But every time he was about to begin building the step he would think, Why should I waste my time building a step when I could be doing practice? He spent the whole three years of his retreat in that cave and never built the step, but he did gain realization.
Good practitioners have contemplated impermanence and the uncertainty of death and they have the direct perception of momentary impermanence, so they act on what they know and understand and have experienced. Nagarjuna said: "While you are sleeping your breath is going in and out, in and out, and then you wake up happy that you have one day more. And then a time comes when you are sleeping and the breath goes in and out, and then it goes out, but it does not go in. That is death." When we think that the difference between life and death is only one breath, it is amazing that we are still alive. So, as long as we have breath, we have the opportunity to do all these practices and stop accumulating more karma.
These words of advice from Chatral Rinpoche are directed towards practitioners who are on a three-month or three-year retreat and can be expected to be more serious in their practice than most other people. So he explains what sort of intention one should have, what sort of mental attitude one should have, how to do the practices in accordance with the dharma teachings, ,how to work with one's mind so that it follows in accordance with the dharma teachings, and how to know if it is not. If one does right practice according to the dharma teachings, one should be able to maintain a proper training attitude so that, whether one is in retreat for a short period of time or a longer period of time, one can benefit from the practices one is concentrating on for the long run.
Whether one is in retreat or not, in the case that one still wishes for a happy and peaceful life and still hopes to avoid any kinds of suffering and problems, one still needs to look into the causes and conditions that create happiness and suffering and those that make one continually wander in samsara. Also, one wants to look into how one can remain in this human form in order to continue practice targeted towards liberation and enlightenment, no matter how many lifetimes it may take.
When we contemplate all this from the relative, common sense point of view, we find that causes do not originate from the outside-it is all completely dependent on oneself. As we have gone through, "oneself" means one's body, speech, and mind, and especially one's mind, because the mind is the source of everything. Whether you study a very basic kind of Buddhism based on the Four Noble Truths teachings or you study a little bit more advanced point of view like the teachings on prajnaparamita from the second turning of the wheel, which are about the bodhisattva path, the training to become a noble being (which focuses on the absolute true nature of phenomena as emptiness and on generating bodhicitta and engaging into the application path of the six perfection practices), you are still working with the mind.
Then one can study the third turning of the wheel of dharma, the explanation of buddhanature, as we went through on the first day of these teachings. According to the Sutrayana view, buddhanature is in the form of potential, but according to the Vajrayana, buddhanature is already at the fruition level. The next level in Vajrayana, in connection with the third turning 48
of the wheel of dharma, is all the outer and inner tantric teachings; and the highest level of all the Buddha's teachings culminates in the Dzogchen or Atiyoga. All these teachings explain that the root cause of everything, whether you wander in samsara or whether you attain liberation, is your mind. That is why properly training one's mind is so very important. From the beginning, one should clearly understand about one's true nature of mind, buddhanature, and buddhanature's qualities, as well as how to always concentrate and meditate, and how to practice with mindfulness, conscientiousness, and vigilance along with perseverance and diligence, in order to progress through the paths that lead all the way to enlightenment.
If one cannot train in this way, the other aspect of oneself, one's samsaric mind, is probably very, very familiar to everybody. Everyone knows his or her own mind, what sorts of emotions arise, what sorts of conceptual thoughts arise, what sorts of momentary changes occur in one's mind. One may think, I want to do the right thing, but at the same time another part of one's mind is saying, There is no time for practice because you want to be successful in this world and enjoy yourself in it. There is so much conflict in one's mind with so many thoughts, some thoughts saying one thing and others saying the opposite, and all these are known as obstacles.
So there are not only external obstacles, but also internal obstacles based on one's mind. That is why one needs lots and lots of education in the dharma fields. Before one can do any serious practice, one should study and contemplate well so that one can gain some certainty into the path itself. No matter who we are or what we do, whether we are on retreat or working in the world, this is very important for everyone. Even when we have some positive habitual tendency from accumulating some kind of merit, it still takes time and can be difficult to feel strong interest or devotion or to assimilate all these teachings so that one can think, All this makes sense, and, This is what I want to know and want to follow.
For example, in Buddha's time, when he first gave the Four Noble Truths teachings, only five disciples were there. They had already cultivated the seed of dharma. They had a connection due to past aspirations, which is why, when Buddha sat down to talk, they instantly recognized the truth of what he was saying. When he taught that samsara is suffering, they instantly recognized that it was true. When he taught that the cause of suffering is karma and afflictive emotions, right away they got it. And then he taught that cessation is peace, which means that when you recognize all the afflictive emotions and karma, there is great peace. When he explained the path to great peace, to liberation, they immediately entered into the four stages of realization until they attained arhat realization.
Later, as the Buddha continued to teach to others, that instantaneous realization did not necessarily happen because other people were obscured by much confusion and doubt. This is a sign of these degenerating times. Still, no matter how great the obscurations, there is a way to become well-trained in one's true nature of mind. So many teachings like this one from Chatral Rinpoche still exist, and there are so many-240-something-commentaries on the Buddha's teaching. Besides those, there are hundreds of thousands of direct instructions on how to engage into practice after some study and education. All of those exist just to train one's mind. Based on the complete teachings of the sutras and tantras, what one needs to train one's mind in one's daily life is the understanding of the impermanence of this precious human form and the truth of karma, which we have ourselves created and which we need to be very, very aware of, always concentrating and being mindful of the actions of our body, speech, and mind.
Chatral Rinpoche's words of advice are based on the teachings of the Buddha and show us how to engage in a spiritual path. Among all those words, the most crucial point is about having right intention. We have to watch our minds and pay attention to our thoughts and recognize what sort of intention we have. If our intention has a little bit of negativity, even if it seems that, for the time being, it may be very helpful or beneficial or we may be getting good results, it is better not to put that intention into action.
At the same time, we don't want to be in a neutral state of mind where we don't have anything specifically positive or negative in our minds, just thoughts about random things. Neutral thoughts don't have consequences,
but we should not waste too much time in that way-our precious human forms are impermanent, and we should use every minute to train our minds, go through all the purifications, and accumulate merit and wisdom. When we are mindful and see that we are spending too much time in neutral thoughts, we should give rise to virtuous thoughts and to bodhicitta, and then try to express this through body, speech, and mind.
Bodhicitta is one of the two main ways to accumulate merit. The other is wisdom. We should train and exercise our wisdom, our buddhanature, which is equal to the Buddha's enlightened mind, but, because we have never trained or cultivated this aspect, we have never known it. The samsaric mind has suppressed that wisdom and, as a result, we have remained ignorant of it. The main reason we study dharma is to begin to remove this ignorance. That is why reading dharma books accumulates merit-it helps remove our ignorance of our true nature. However, even reading many books is not enough-we still have to contemplate what we read to really get the meaning so that we can build some certainty.
From our own side, we need to develop our inner wisdom to see things, with certainty, just as they are. That is wisdom, and through that one finally engages in what is called meditation. We hear or read dharma teachings, we really concentrate on them, and then we sit in meditation. That is the way the Buddha taught, all the past masters did it this way, and all the future buddhas will go through the same process and teach the same thing. This is the actual procedure that tames the samsaric or afflicted mind. By the wisdom gained through that process we remove ignorance and actualize our true nature of mind or buddhanature. Bodhicitta arises through that sense of caring for all other sentient beings with a mind of compassion and loving kindness, through wishing to attain enlightenment to get perfected so that one can truly benefit sentient beings in accordance with their faculties, their levels of mind, their capabilities, or according to the teachings that resonate with each and every individual being.
RESUMING THE TEXTUAL COMMENTARY
If we want to become good practitioners, good followers, and good people with better, happier lives, now and in the future, we need to know these points of instruction on how to do a right, perfect, and true practice so that we can guide ourselves. We begin by receiving teachings and then contemplating them.
In the Tibetan tradition, a great lama might give a whole cycle of empowerments every day from early afternoon until late into the night for almost three months along with teachings and instructions. After all that, some practitioners feel more devoted to these dharma practices and want to go into retreat for a few months or a few years, rather than just hang around in samsara. The purpose of going into retreat is to practice, such as deity practice with visualizations and chanting mantras. Retreat also includes doing pujas, ngöndro accumulations, or practicing many various types of meditation.
You might remain sealed in strict retreat for months or even years,
But if you fail to make any progress in the state of your mind,
Later, when you tell everyone about all that you did over such a long time,
Aren't you just bragging about all your hardships and destitution?
No matter how long one stays in retreat, without having the proper understanding, the proper concentration into the practice, or the training to apply these practices as antidotes to the afflictive emotions of the mind and ego, and instead one just accumulates hundreds, thousands, or millions of mantras without the practice becoming part of one's mindstream, the mind won't get even a tiny bit better. One's afflictive emotions will not be subdued, and one will not become more humble or devoted or develop more compassion and loving kindness. If the mind is not progressing in this way but remains as it was before, whether one does a one-month retreat, a year, or even three or nine years, and then one tells others that one did retreat for such a long time, it is just bragging without meaning or accomplishment and one only develops more pride. In this way, the afflictive emotions get worse, instead of being subdued.
Going on retreat like that without taming the mind or experiencing cessation is not real retreat. If, after retreat, one meets a difficult person, one will respond with anger or irritation rather than patience and tolerance. However, if one has done good practice, the mind gets tamed, afflictive emotions are reduced, and one sees difficult people as teachers who help us identify our faults and lessen our ego.
All their praise and acknowledgements will only make you proud.
In addition, if we have not done good retreat, instead of using sweet, nice words that show appreciation, we might use harsh words that challenge others and protect our ego. For example, there was a great lama who was doing a very good retreat and could sit a whole day in single-pointed concentration. After practice one day, another lama said to him, "You must have been a while in retreat and are doing very well."
The other lama answered that his meditation was so good that he was able to sit in single-pointed, undisturbed meditation for many hours.
"Oh, that is very good!" said the other lama.
The next day, as the second lama was making his tsampa with tea, he said to the first lama, "Your meditation is even better than my tsampa."
Hearing that, the first lama realized that his meditation was nothing good-it was just part of his ego. After that, he could do real meditation.
He had been doing mere shamatha meditation, which does not lead to liberation as it is not an antidote for ignorance and afflictive emotions. For that, we have to do insight or vipassana meditation. Shamatha meditation by itself leads to rebirth in the formless god realms, which are still within samsara.
To bear mistreatment from our enemies is the best form of austerity,
But those who hate criticism and are attached to compliments,
Who take great pains to discover all the faults of others,
While failing to keep proper guard over their own mindstream,
And who are always irritable and short-tempered,
Are certain to bring breakages of samaya upon all their associates...
Masters who have right understanding can subdue their egos, but if one does not have right understanding and then has one's mistakes pointed out, one feels like one's ego is being attacked and so turns against the person who might be giving very good advice. In that kind of situation, it is difficult to find any kind of benefit. People who are sharp about others' faults and mistakes and quick to make judgments are not doing the work of a practitioner. Before one can point out another's mistake or inappropriate discipline, one should watch one's own mindstream, one's own discipline, and one's own verbalizations. One should see whether one is behaving in accordance with the dharma or not, whether one is correcting oneself or not. We should watch for our own faults and not judge others-that is the practice.If one sees someone's mistakes or faults in relation to spiritual train-ing and, with a sincere mind motivated by compassion, thinks that one wants to help, and if one knows that this person will listen and understand one's good intentions, only then can one say something. Otherwise, that person might think that you feel you know better and have more realization and experience and are motivated by ego. Then there is no benefit
....So rely constantly on mindfulness, vigilance and conscientiousness.
Noble beings or bodhisattvas have to have a lot of wisdom in order to approach others in a skillful way to help or correct. If one is not yet a noble being, it is more important to watch oneself, because one may just damage one's own samaya and cause disturbance to the harmony of sangha mem-bers.
In order to engage in proper practice, gain merit, and purify karma, one needs to rely constantly on mindfulness. One must be mindful of one's mind or mental attitude and intentions, one's speech or what one says and how one says it, and one's body or the actions one performs. For that kind of mindfulness we also need vigilance and conscientiousness. All of this is explained with a great deal of detail in Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara in the third, fourth, and fifth chapters.
To be mindful means remaining aware of what is to be abandoned and what is to be engaged in or accepted. Vigilance means always being watchful of one's body, speech, and mind. And conscientiousness means being conscientious about engaging in the right things with body, speech, and mind and not engaging in the wrong things. Those three qualities are needed for everything, even if one just wants to have a better life in the relative world.
They are also necessary for spiritual progress whether one is practicing on the Hinayana level, the pratyekabuddha level, or the Mahayana level, as in the bodhisattva practices or the Vajrayana practices. For all of these, mindfulness, vigilance, and conscientiousness are essential.
No matter where you stay, be it a busy place or a solitary retreat,
The only things that you need to conquer are mind's five poisons
And your own true enemies, the eight worldly concerns,
So, whether one is in a place that is very crowded with people or whether one is in a very quiet place, what one really needs to tame is the afflictive emotions-the three poisons of hatred, desire, and ignorance that lie at the root of the five poisons of hatred, ignorance, desire, pride, and jealousy. These five then get multiplied into the 84,000 afflictive emotions. These are our real enemies, and they attack us in the same way that Mara attacked Shakyamuni Buddha just before he gained complete enlightenment. But, since Buddha had subdued his inner enemies, no matter how Mara tried to harm him he could not get Buddha to respond in any way other than with loving kindness and compassion. As practitioners, we should do the same as the Buddha, because the only enemies we need to conquer or subdue are the five poisons and the eight worldly concerns. We should not be concerned with whether we are being praised or blamed, whether we experience pleasure or pain, and so on. These are keeping us in samsara or leading us into the three lower realms and causing all sorts of suffering.
Whether it is by avoiding them, transforming them, taking them as the path, or looking into their very essence,
Whichever method is best suited to your own capacity...
We can deal with our afflictive emotions in these different ways: we can avoid them; we can, according to Mahayana practices, transform them into wisdom, taking them as the path by infusing them with bodhicitta; or we can, according to special Vajrayana wisdom, look into their essence.
According to this method, instead of verbalizing an emotion or acting upon it, we look into it and find that we cannot find any real characteristics of the emotion such as shape, color, or form, and so it simply dissolves into emptiness.
When we look at, examine, or investigate an emotion, and so find out what it really is, it dissolves, because emotions are really emptiness in nature. The problem with sentient beings is that, when an emotion like anger arises, they look for an external cause for the emotion. Maybe another person said or did something to make one angry. When we project outside, looking for a condition to blame for our feeling, and then act on that feeling, we just create more karma. So, the final practice of Dzogchen or Vajrayana is to look into our emotions and thoughts instead of acting on them. That way they will dissolve by themselves, and then you will naturally be calm, the emotion won't become an afflicting one, and you won't be creating more karma that creates causes and conditions to be reborn into samsara. Then it will be impossible to be reborn back into samsara.
When we get into the higher practices, whether it is by avoiding the afflictive emotions, transforming them into wisdom, taking them as the path with very skillful means, or looking into their very essence, that is what we do. According to one's own capability, according to one's own faculty, or according to one's sense of what resonates best with oneself, there is a path for avoiding afflictive emotions. If one is capable, one can transform negative emotions into something positive. One can also use wisdom or skillful means to dissolve afflictive emotions. Or, if one is very capable and has a sharp level of mind, one can just look into the emotion and it will instantly dissolve into emptiness. Then no harm can be done by our enemies, the afflictive emotions.
There is no better sign of accomplishment than a disciplined mind.
This is true victory for the real warrior who carries no weapons.
There is no greater sign of accomplishment than being able to subdue these enemies or tame the ego which gives rise to them all. That is the sign that shows us we are learning dharma. When our minds become very simple, humble, and easy-going and we are able to deal with any sort of problem, situation, person, or any sort of blame or suffering with a very peaceful mind, we know that our practice is working.
Many people spend many years in retreat, but if they have not tamed their ego, there is no accomplishment. Signs of accomplishment don't have that much to do with miraculous activities like clairvoyance or flying through the air or other fantastic things. Many magicians can do all those things-there is nothing surprising about those-without being enlightened beings and without having tamed their egos. If we are able to subdue our inner enemy, the ego, no other external enemy can harm us. It makes one a real warrior, a real hero or victorious one, who carries no weapons.
This is the whole point behind the story about Milarepa eating poisoned yogurt. The yogurt was given to him by the follower of a master who was jealous that everyone went to hear Milarepa speak rather than coming to hear him. When he was offered the yogurt, Milarepa said, "At this time I am not going to accept your offering, but tomorrow when you come, I will accept it."
The disciple went back and told the master what had happened. The master said, "Tomorrow, make sure he eats the yogurt and I will give you this very big, very beautiful turquoise."
So, the next day the same person brought the yogurt. This time Milarepa accepted it, saying, "Now I will accept it because you got your turquoise." He ate all the yogurt and had much pain and trembling.
When the master was told that Milarepa had eaten the poison and that it was working, he went to see Milarepa and said, "I heard you ate poison and you are in much pain! I wish I could take some of your pain and help you!"
Milarepa said, "Do you really mean that? Do you really want to take some of my pain?"
The master said, "Yes, if only it was possible to transfer some of the pain, I would do it!"
Milarepa asked again, and again the master said he wanted to. So Milarepa said he would transfer only about two percent of his pain to the door, and the door began to shake and rattle.
Then the master saw that Milarepa was not just another traveling yogi but a great realized master, so he confessed what he had done and asked Milarepa to accept him as a disciple.
There are so many stories like this-maybe poison goes well with yogurt! Be careful when someone gives you yogurt! But in all these stories the realized master maybe gets sick for a while but never dies from the poison.
When you practise the teachings of the sutras and tantras,
The altruistic bodhicitta of aspiration and application is crucial,
Because it lies at the very root of the Mahayana.
Just to have this is enough, but without it, all is lost.
No matter what level of practice one is on, whether it is sutra or tantra, whether it is very basic Buddhism or the highest tantra of Dzogchen, the most crucial essence of the dharma teaching itself is bodhicitta. We should always train our minds in the combination of compassion and wisdom that is bodhicitta. We should be completely devoted to the welfare and happiness of other sentient beings so that bodhicitta becomes the antidote to the attachment to self, pride, or ego.
Sentient beings wander in samsara because of this attachment to self, and this attachment is a sign of ignorance, because in reality there is no true, inherently existing self. A self has never, ever existed in the five aggregates, so believing in a self, conceptualizing it, and holding on to it makes no sense because there is no such thing as this "I." Shantideva wrote that all one has to do is look at the way all sentient beings always concentrate on benefiting themselves, benefiting their own egos, while buddhas are always concerned for and care for all other sentient beings. Even the Buddha came into this earth as a sentient being, but he attained enlightenment because he dedicated his life to the welfare and liberation of all other sentient beings without the tiniest bit of partiality. It did not matter whether a person was devoted to him and his teachings or whether a person was very, very mean to him. He made no distinction of attraction or aversion and practiced not even the tiniest bit of discrimination, because he saw that all sentient beings needed to be benefited and liberated in order to achieve ultimate happiness.
The enlightened mind sees the needs of all sentient beings without discrimination or distinction and without any attachment or aversion. This is what Shantideva said, and so we should also understand these kinds of practices, because bodhicitta is the root practice of the Mahayana teachings, which means that one's absolute true nature of mind lies within the bodhicitta nature or buddhanature, which itself has within it the ultimate truth of both compassion and wisdom.
Patrul Rinpoche said that if we have bodhicitta, we have enough to bring us to enlightenment, but if we don't have it, we don't have the method or solution to end suffering and attain enlightenment. Compassion is the unmistaken cause and condition for attaining the accomplishment of buddhahood. There is an extensive explanation in the Mahayana teachings of how this works. If you follow this path, you are accumulating merit and wisdom, and you are following the right path when you are not committing any negative actions that might harm yourself or others and cause negative karma. That is why having bodhicitta is enough.
These words of advice were spoken in the hidden grove of Padma,
In the place called Kunzang Chöling,
In the upper hermitage in a forest clearing,
By the old beggar Sangye Dorje.
May it be virtuous!
These "Words of Advice" were spoken in a place called Kunzang Chöling in Nepal by the "old beggar," as Chatral Rinpoche called himself, while he was on retreat in a forest clearing. This is how one needs to train one's mind in this relative life and all the way to enlightenment, including those who wish to attain enlightenment in a single lifetime. If one wants to transfer one's consciousness after death to a pure buddhafield, like Amitabha's pure land, this is how to train one's mind. Even in the bardo, the intermediate stage, where it is possible to have some recognition of the mother clear light, one should have some training in bodhicitta. And, even if one misses all these opportunities to gain realization, at least in the next lifetime one will have established some of the causes and conditions for attaining enlightenment at that time.
These few words by Chatral Rinpoche give one enough guidance to carry through a practice. I don't know how this teaching resonates with you guys, whether you think it is good, or whether you think it is difficult, or how much of the teaching you captured or how much you let go... I don't know. You have to communicate so that I know what you understand and what you are confused about and what you want to know more about. You have to tell me yourself-I have no clairvoyance to know. Without communication, the teacher cannot know exactly what the students' faculties are, and the students will not know whether or not the teacher is qualified. So asking questions is one of the ways to communicate these things, even though I know that I cannot give you all the answers and I know I don't have much knowledge. Still, I can try, but only if you ask the questions. That is important.