External appearances appear to the mind, but they are just a construction of the mind; when they appear, the mind gives them a label. For that reason, even if outside things seem good, there is not actually a whole lot to be attached to. If they seem bad, there is nothing to feel aversion toward. Therefore if we want to be free of suffering and faults and find happiness and good qualities, the most important thing is to tame our mind and to be diligent about doing so. This is why we meditate and this is why there are mind instructions. Since the mind is root of everything and everything comes down to the mind, there is nothing more important than taming our mind, meditating on samadhi, and resting in equipoise.
We’re all buddhas. We just don’t recognize it. We are confined in many ways to a limited view of ourselves and the world around us through cultural conditioning, family upbringing, personal experience, and the basic biological predisposition toward making distinctions and measuring present experience and future hopes and fears against a neuronal warehouse of memories.
Once you commit yourself to developing an awareness of your buddhanature, you’ll inevitably start to see changes in your day-to- day experience. Things that used to trouble you gradually lose their power to upset you. You’ll become intuitively wiser, more relaxed, and more openhearted. You’ll begin to recognize obstacles as opportunities for further growth. And as your illusory sense of limitation and vulnerability gradually fades away, you’ll discover deep within yourself the true grandeur of who and what you are.
Best of all, as you start to see your own potential, you’ll also begin to recognize it in everyone around you. Buddhanature is not a special quality available to a privileged few. The true mark of recognizing your buddhanature is to realize how ordinary it really is—the ability to see that every living creature shares it, though not everyone recognizes it in him- or herself. So instead of closing your heart to people who yell at you or act in some other harmful way, you find yourself becoming more open. You recognize that they aren’t “jerks,” but are people who, like you, want to be happy and peaceful. They’re only acting like jerks because they haven’t recognized their true nature and are overwhelmed by sensations of vulnerability and fear.
The instruction that we need to identify our body, speech, and mind is a particularly important instruction for our time. The reason is that today, many people think that our mind is our brain, or that the brain and the mind are the same thing. The brain is something that can cause thoughts to happen but if we examine it, we see that the brain is just matter and the mind is awareness. Their characteristics are dissimilar. The brain functions as a support for thoughts, but that does not mean that it is the mind. For example, if you pinch your arm, the arm is a support for thought, even though it is not mind itself. It is the same with the brain. The Dalai Lama gives another example: crying out of a strong feeling of compassion and crying out of grief or sadness are very different in terms of motivation, but the brain activity is the same for both, despite the difference in emotion. If one occurred on the right side of the brain and the other on the left for example, we could say there is a distinction the brain, but we do not see any such difference. It is important that we recognize that our mind and brain are different—we should not confuse them. The mind is different from the body and the body is different from the mind. It is easy to see that speech is something different from the mind, but it is harder to recognize that body and mind are distinct.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Although it is a crucial point, simply to remember death is not enough; now that we have good health and freedom in both body and mind, we need to channel all our energy into practicing the Dharma.
Reducing our pride does not imply losing confidence — in fact, far from it. There is an important difference between confidence and pride. With pride, we look down on others. We need them to be less for ourselves to be more. Confidence is a virtuous form of pride. You feel able to do good things.
When we speak about luminous clarity, we are not really talking about light or rays of light. We are not really talking about anything terribly profound. It just means the ability to know and understand that whatever there is can appear and can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and understood. This quality of luminous clarity refers to the ability for things to appear and to be known. It’s not something that is a long way off. If you start looking for this knower, this luminous and clear entity, you don’t find anything. But, it’s not along way off. It’s very close. It’s directly right there. It can be meditated on in that way.
Cultivating humility as part of our efforts to live interdependence can be enhanced by a heartfelt awareness that we are always in a state of development. Because everything arises based upon the coming together of continually shifting conditions, however much or little of a certain positive quality we have, further growth is always possible. Moreover, our positive qualities can be developed without limit. As long as we are human, we can continually keep discovering new potentials.
It might seem hard to understand karma. But if we look at it, the teachings on karma simply say that if we have a good intention and do a good act it will bring a good result. If we have a bad intention and do something bad, that will only bring a bad result—harm to ourselves and to others. If you actually think about it, it is not all that difficult.
14th Dalai Lama
Bodhichitta is a very good state of mind, imbued with wisdom, in which kindness is combined with the highest intelligence. It is something quite marvelous. This sort of goodness and kindness brings us peace immediately, so we are less narrow-minded and agitated. When we meet others, we do not feel claustrophobic and distant. On the contrary, we feel close to people. With a mind like this, we are never afraid, but strong and courageous. This is a very useful attitude to have.
Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
See the dharma in every experience. All sentient beings possess the buddha-nature, the tatagathagarba, and the cause of buddhahood. We must consider them with warmth and a kind heart. We progress on the path and cultivate loving-kindness, patience and compassion as we learn to see other beings as pure. These qualities provide us with the necessary means to achieve buddhahood.
14th Dalai Lama
Within less than fifty years, I, Tenzin Gyatso, the Buddhist monk, will be no more than a memory. Indeed, it is doubtful whether a single person reading these words will be alive a century from now. Time passes unhindered. When we make mistakes, we cannot turn the clock back and try again. All we can do is use the present well. Therefore, if when our final day comes we are able to look back and see that we have lived full, productive, and meaningful lives, that will at least be of some comfort. If we cannot, we may be very sad. But which of these we experience is up to us.
The best way to ensure that when we approach death we do so without remorse is to ensure that in the present moment we conduct ourselves responsibly and with compassion for others. Actually, this is in our own interest, and not just because it will benefit us in the future. As we have seen, compassion is one of the principal things that make our lives meaningful. It is the source of all lasting happiness and joy. And it is the foundation of a good heart, the heart of one who acts out of a desire to help others. Through kindness, through affection, through honesty, through truth and justice toward all others we ensure our own benefit. This is not a matter for complicated theorizing. It is a matter of common sense. There is no denying that consideration of others is worthwhile. There is no denying that our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. There is no denying that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. Nor is there any denying that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill-will, the more miserable we become. Thus we can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion.
This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense, there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need. So long as we practice these in our daily lives, then no matter if we are learned or unlearned, whether we believe in Buddha or God, or follow some other religion or none at all, as long as we have compassion for others and conduct ourselves with restraint out of a sense of responsibility, there is no doubt we will be happy.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Always try to accomplish even the smallest beneficial action without any reservation or hesitation, and avoid even the most insignificant negative actions.
It is said that if you do not meditate, you will not gain certainty; If you do, you will. But what sort of certainty? If you meditate with a strong, joyful endeavor, signs will appear showing that you have become used to staying in your nature. The fierce, tight clinging from dualistically experiencing phenomena will gradually loosen up, and your obsession with happiness and suffering, hopes and fears, and so on, will slowly weaken. Your devotion to the teacher and your sincere trust in his instructions will grow. After a time, your tense, dualistic attitudes will evaporate and you will get to the point where gold and pebbles, food and filth, gods and demons, virtue and nonvirtue, are all the same for you – you will be at a loss to choose between paradise and hell! But until you reach that point (while you are still caught in the experiences of dualistic perception), virtue and nonvirtue, buddhafields and hells, happiness and pain, actions and their results – all of this is reality for you.
Our consumerist society thrives on competition and therefore encourages displays of strength. This inclines us to feel we must present ourselves as successful winners. But this not only makes it hard for us to connect authentically, it inclines us to seek positions of superiority over others and to conceal our weaknesses. This in turn makes it harder to address those weaknesses, which is necessary if we are to grow.
Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
Although many saints temporarily isolated themselves to practice Dharma, they did not do so to be ultimately isolated. Outwardly they isolated themselves with the intention for increasing the vast pure inner elements of their wish fulfilling Wisdom Mind which has endless qualities that are never isolated.
In Buddhism we say that each person must become his or her own protector. Learning to do this is extremely important. It is the basis for us to be able to extend care and protection to others. This second step is even more important. If our learning to protect ourselves does not contribute to our being able to care for others, we all too easily become stuck in a quagmire of self-obsession. Much of the time, this is what happens: we take our care and cherishing of ourselves too far and arrive at outright self-absorption.
Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
There is a specific practice that can be done to help overpower the feeling of self-importance. First, inhale all the obstacles, difficulties, and adversities with your breath. Let them hit your feeling of self-importance like cannonballs until it crumbles like dust. Then enjoy the freedom and lightness of being liberated from the prison of ego-clinging.
My perceptions have become like those of a baby. I even enjoy playing with children. When I encounter people with serious shortcomings, I throw their personal faults in their faces, even if they are respected spiritual leaders or generous Dharma patrons.
In every action of sitting, walking, sleeping, or eating, I secure my mind [in the state, that is] never dissociated from the brilliance of the ultimate nature. If it is the service of the Dharma, I dedicate myself to its completion, even if it is thought to be an impossible task.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
People tend to appreciate nature. We associate the natural world with beauty, that which is pure and untouched. When we see someone cutting trees or digging in the wilderness, it disturbs us. We can realize the beauty of our own inner nature when we stop manipulating everything that crosses our path as a way to fortify a sense of self. This is a practitioner’s approach to life.
The wonderful irony about this spiritual journey is that we find it only leads us to become just as we are. The exalted state of enlightenment is nothing more than fully knowing ourselves and our world, just as we are.