Taking refuge doesn’t protect us from problems in the world. It doesn’t shield us from war, famine, illness, accidents, and other difficulties. Rather, it provides tools to transform obstacles into opportunities. We learn how to relate to difficulties in a new way, and this protects us from confusion and despair. Traffic jams do not disappear, but we might not respond by leaning on our horns or swearing. Illnesses may afflict us, but we might still greet the day with a joyful appreciation for being alive. Eventually we rely on the best parts of our being in order to protect ourselves from those neurotic tendencies that create dissatisfaction. This allows for living in the world with greater ease and without needing to withdraw into untrustworthy circumstances in order to feel protected.
No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear. We are very rarely told to move closer, to just be there, to become familiar with fear. I once asked the Zen master Kobun Chino Roshi how he related with fear, and he said, “I agree. I agree.” But the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Just as the whole world, with its mountains, continents, and everything else, exists within infinite space, so too do all phenomena appear within the buddha nature.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
One of the main reasons we practice the Dharma is to prepare ourselves for certain death. For some, it is the only reason they practice – but that reason alone will make their Dharma practice worthwhile. These days various aspects of the Dharma, like mindfulness, are becoming more and more popular, but rarely as a preparation for death and definitely not as a preparation for what lies beyond death. Modern people meditate for every reason under the sun except the most important one. How many vipassana students meditate to prepare for death? And how many practice because they want to put an end to the cycle of death and rebirth for good? Most people meditate because they want to become better managers, or find partners, or feel happy, or because they long for a calm, stress-free mind and life. For them, meditation is a way of preparing for life, not death and is therefore no less mundane than their other worldly pursuits, like shopping, eating out, exercising and socializing.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Nothing exists in reality. Nothing exists the way it appears to exist, as real from there. Everything is totally empty. It’s like a dream, like an illusion.
If we are able to meditate in this way, looking at all this as like a dream, an illusion, a mirage—all the different examples—then it becomes very interesting. There is nothing to become attached to because it is not real.
For example, if we recognize a dream as a dream, there is nothing to be attached to and there is nothing to be angry about. In a dream, somebody abuses us but if we can recognize the dream as a dream, the abuse does not bother us at all. Similarly, some object of desire appears in our dream, but recognizing it as just a dream, we are not agitated. Nothing disturbs us; our mind remains utterly peaceful. Anger and attachment do not arise, so we have a very, very interesting life.
Because things appear to us not as a dream but as real from their own side, which is how it has been since beginningless time, realizing emptiness is vital. It is more important than any job, than all the money in the world, than anything. To cut the root of suffering, ignorance, and be free forever from the oceans of samsaric suffering, there is nothing more important than realizing emptiness.
We need to cut the wrong belief that whatever object that appears to us is real, which is how it appears. As I have said, in the first moment the I appears as merely imputed; in the second it appears as real, as a real I; then, in the third moment, we believe that I to be real. That wrong concept is the root of samsara.
4th Dodrupchen Rinpoche
When practicing Dharma, it is important that you tone down your ego. If being a practitioner causes you to become more egotistic, then you have only succeeded in adding one more poison, the poison of ego, on top of what you already have. Dharma practice is not an object to sell. It is not an object to show. It is done to help one’s own nature. Listening to the teaching is done to guide one’s attitude. The meditation on the teaching is done to affect one’s mind, to tone down or to eliminate the poison of one’s own mind. Dharma practice is completely for oneself, not to tell others what to do. Anyone can practice Dharma because Dharma shows what to acquire and what to abandon. By toning down one’s ego, one practices anonymously and will achieve one’s goal.
When looked at, the marvels of the world seem pleasing.
When attained, each has its own suffering.
After moments of brief happiness become but a dream,
There is always something that makes me sad.
I’m a very ambitious person. However, I relate with now. On that basis, you see how far you can go, how far you can’t go. Your ambition isn’t focused on the future. If you mentally jump to a conclusion about what you would like to be, rather than what you are, then you are in trouble. So there’s nothing wrong with ambition, as long as you stay with this situation, this very realistic thing.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
What we must realize is that at the moment of death we are plucked from this life like a hair drawn from a piece of butter, leaving everything behind, including this body we have held so dear. Death is not like a fire that simply goes out, or like water that vanishes when it lands on dry ground.
There will be rebirth, and this rebirth will be conditioned by our positive and negative actions. If we have accumulated negative actions, we will be reborn in the lower realms.
However much we long to be reborn in the celestial realms, unless we have prepared for this by accumulating positive actions, it will be quite impossible. As it is said: “There is no result that we have experienced that was not created by past actions, and there is not a single present action that will not bear fruit.”
So we should never feel contempt towards accumulating even the smallest amount of merit and virtue, because the results can be enormous. Nor should we ever think that if we indulge in only a tiny negative action it is of little or no significance.
Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche
In Buddhism, when we behave ethically, we are being true to ourselves; and when we behave unethically, we are being untrue to ourselves. In being true to ourselves, we are creating good karma, and when we are untrue to ourselves, we are creating negative karma. Normally, we think of unethical behavior as scheming, scamming, lying, and otherwise deceiving other people in one shape or another; yet, in the end, it is actually self-deception that is the root of our moral corruption. . . . Observing this in ourselves, in our nature, we can change tack and recognize the need for a different approach.
Forget about non-duality. Understand duality and then from there, the mind will of itself open up into another level of consciousness. But if we don’t have mindful awareness every day, we’re never going to get primordial awareness, or if we do, we won’t be able to sustain it. So we have to start from where we are. Everybody wants the highest, but you can’t get the highest until you have the basics in learning how to tame the mind, how to make the mind more calm and clear, to be able to have a mind which is not the monkey mind, a mind which is running all over the place. We have to tame the monkey and through the mind we can train the monkey. Training the monkey transforms the mind and by transforming the mind we will eventually transcend our normal conceptual mind, but is has to go in stages. We can’t get to the top of the mountain when we haven’t even reached base camp. We have to get all our equipment for climbing.
We need to make our preparations now and be diligent about it. We may think, “I really want to practice the Dharma, but right now I’m really busy. I have a lot of things to do. I’ll get to the Dharma when my work is done.” This way of thinking is an obstacle that will prevent us from practicing the Dharma. If we are busy doing something right now, then when we are done, something else will come up to keep us busy, and when that’s done, there will be something else, and something else after that. There’s just one thing after another that we have to do, and we end up with no opportunity to practice the Dharma at all.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
In each of our countless lives in beginningless samsara, we must have had parents. In fact, we have taken birth so often that, at one time or another, every single sentient being must have been our mother or father. When we think of all these beings who have been our parents wandering helplessly for so long in samsara, like blind people who have lost their way, we cannot but feel tremendous compassion for them.
Compassion by itself, however, is not enough; they need actual help. But as long as our minds are still limited by attachment, just giving them food, clothing, money, or simply affection will only bring them a limited and temporary happiness at best. What we must do is to ﬁnd a way to liberate them completely from suffering. This can only be done by putting the teachings of Dharma into practice.
True compassion is directed impartially toward all sentient beings, without discriminating between those who are friends and those who are enemies. With this compassion constantly in mind, we should perform every positive act, even offering a single ﬂower or reciting a single mantra, with the wish that it may beneﬁt all living creatures without exception.
We can rightly say that the thinning of the ozone layer is a scientific fact; it’s not simply an opinion. But if the way we work with trying not to further harm the ozone layer is to solidify our opinion against those we feel are at fault, then nothing ever changes; negativity begets negativity. In other words, no matter how well documented or noble our cause is, it won’t be helped by our feeling aggression toward the oppressors or those who are promoting the danger. Nothing will ever change through aggression.
Tai Situ Rinpoche
Bodhichitta is peace. Sometimes I feel people misunderstand, or do not understand clearly, the difference between basic compassion and Bodhichitta. If you are able to spend a few hours doing something for somebody you don’t even know people might call you a bodhisattva. They may say, “Oh, he or she is so kind, they are a Bodhisattva.” This is not necessarily so. A kind person is not necessarily a Bodhisattva. Being kind is very good, being a compassionate person is very good, but it does not necessarily make us a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva has to be kind and compassionate for a reason. A bodhisattva is kind and compassionate in that they are working to establish all beings as Buddhas. In this way Bodhichitta is very specific.
When unwanted things befall you,
Rid yourself of your displeasure.
For if there is a remedy,
What need is there for it?
And if no change is possible,
What point is there in useless irritation?
Therefore simply bear with all that may befall you.
When examined, there is only space-like emptiness.
There’s no happiness or sadness and no loss or gain.
There is neither good nor bad —
What use is there in such dualistic grasping?
Strive to bring all things into the state of evenness.
When we are not constricted by habitual patterns that define how we see ourselves and how we behave in the world, we create access to those qualities of mind that are vast, that are not contingent on circumstances or concepts, and that are always present.
In the practice of meditation, opinions may provide a way to escape; they create a kind of slothfulness and obscure one’s clarity of vision. The clarity of our consciousness is veiled by prefabricated concepts. Whatever we see we try to fit into some pigeonhole. So concepts and theories can become obstacles. In the practice of meditation, one tries to transcend concepts, and one tries to find out what is.
14th Dalai Lama
According to a basic Buddhist insight, the mind is essentially luminous and knowing. Therefore, emotional problems do not reside in the mind’s essence; counter-productive attitudes are temporary, superficial, and can be removed. If distressing emotions such as anger were in the very nature of the mind, then from its inception, the mind would always have to be angry. Obviously, this is not so. Only under certain circumstances do we become angry, and when those circumstances are not present, anger is not present either.
We may ask how Mahamudra meditation and Mind Training are related. There are two kinds of truths or realities, the conventional and ultimate. Mahamudra is a very high-level teaching that concerns the ultimate truth of reality. But sometimes we are unable to realize that ultimate meaning, and because of this, various things happen to us. Sometimes our meditation goes very well, but at other times our diligence decreases, our pride increases, and our meditation doesn’t go the way it should. During these down times, the instructions of Mind Training are very beneficial to practice.