Bodhicitta is focused on all beings without exception. This differs from ordinary compassion in that usually we feel compassion for those who are obviously suffering and wish that they be free from suffering, but we may not feel compassion for those that are doing well or who are apparently happy. However, the aspect of great compassion in bodhicitta is that one feels compassion not only for those who are presently suffering, but also for those who are enjoying happiness. One does this because of recognizing that the happiness that beings are now enjoying is impermanent, and then they, too, will suffer.
In order to work with interdependence to bring about change, we must attend to both the inner and outer: both the experiences within us and all the interactions we have with our social or natural environment. Outer interdependence may be more tangible and thus easier to observe, but in actual fact, inner conditions of interdependence admit of a far richer versatility and variety.
The world today is sorely lacking in love, and that lack stems in large part from a failure to appreciate the contributions of others to our well-being. Others did not simply clothe and feed us; they made us who we are as individuals. By training ourselves to recognize the many ways others have contributed to our survival, well-being and our very identity, we can develop a genuine sense of cherishing and affection toward them, and these emotions are conditions for developing a vivid sense of responsibility. As we come to truly understand ourselves as interdependent individuals, responsibility comes to feel and look very different, as we will explore in a later chapter.
If we are successful in internalizing our awareness of interdependence and allowing it to become deeply felt, we can shift our self-perception so as to actually experience the intimate connections that link us constantly to others and to the planet. We will be able to move beyond knowing that we are dependent upon other people and the natural world to feeling an active sense of love and concern for them.
Tai Situ Rinpoche
As a Vajrayana Buddhist whose ultimate aim is to reach Buddhahood, not just nirvana but Buddhahood, we must have Bodhichitta. We cannot attain Buddhahood unless we wish to attain Buddhahood. We cannot attain it by mistake or accident. It has to happen intentionally. The intention must be to become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. If I were to wish to become a Buddha just for my own reasons, it would never happen. This intention would make my Buddhahood limited, private, but Buddhahood cannot be limited. By definition Buddha is limitless. This means that Buddhahood has to be attained by a limitless purpose – the limitless freedom and liberation of limitless sentient beings. Bodhichitta, therefore, must be focused on enlightenment in this way.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
Didn’t the Buddha say that the mind in itself has no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no texture, no dharmas? Here,dharma means mental object. He did not call it empty or void, he called it emptiness. This ‘-ness’ means the same as ‘ta’ in the word dharmata, or tathata. This word ‘ta’ refers to being cognizant, and this it what we should understand as its meaning.
What the Buddha said exactly was that mind is the unity of empty and cognizance. It is not said that space is emptiness; space is merely empty. This is how to discriminate between space and mind: space is empty and mind is emptiness. This word ‘ta’ is also used in dharmata, sameness, suchness. This suffix ‘-ness’ always refers back to the cognizant wakefulness. You never said that awareness is empty, you always say that it is emptiness.
In short, awareness is not only empty, it can also know. This knowing is the cognizant nature when you speak about empty essence, cognizant nature – it is not some brillant light like a light bulb. Do not understand it like that. What it means is a sense of being present like the vivid quality of being wide awake. It is empty of any identity, yet it is naturally awake and not limited to being one or the other; it is not an either-or situation.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
In Tibetan we have the expression thukyid chikdre: thuk is an honorific term for the guru’s mind, yid is your mind, chik means “one,” and dre means “merged.” This is the quintessence of the quintessence of the guru yoga practice. The whole point is to accomplish this merging with the guru’s mind.
Once the student has matured, the student will begin to realize that the guru is not bound by gender, nationality, or history. In fact, everything that is seen, heard, tasted, or felt is an expression of the guru. So there will be a time when there is no centimeter that is not the guru, not a moment that is not the guru, and at that time you will actualize the phenomenon of nonduality.
In order to understand these things, intellectual speculation is not going to help much. You have to put them into practice to begin to comprehend a different set of logic. At the moment, we don’t have that set of logic. To cultivate it, supplication, beseeching, and praying to the guru are necessary for deluded, ordinary beings like us.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Spending all your life trying to achieve ordinary worldly goals is like trying to net fish in a dry riverbed. Clearly understanding this, make a firm decision not to allow your life to pursue such a useless course.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Devotion is the essence of the path, and if we have in mind nothing but the guru and feel nothing but fervent devotion, whatever occurs is perceived as his/her blessing. If we simply practice with this constantly present devotion, this is prayer itself.
When all thoughts are imbued with devotion to the guru, there is a natural confidence that this will take care of whatever may happen. All forms are the guru, all sounds are prayer, and all gross and subtle thoughts arise as devotion. Everything is spontaneously liberated in the absolute nature, like knots untied in the sky.
Normally, we do not bother to look for goodness in negative actions in ourselves or in others. That’s a mistake, because there’s always one excellent quality: every negative act has within it the seed of purification. There is no such thing as absolute negativity. There is no absolute bad karma. Impossible.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Where does low self-esteem come from? Those with low self-esteem tend to have highly developed egos; they long to be best at everything and valued highly by everyone they meet, and imagine their ego is repressed, weak and needs boosting. But once we develop the attitude of a bodhisattva, we have little or no ego and therefore there is no “I” to worry about giving all the good stuff away or to be bothered by the bad stuff. Bodhisattvas lack “ego” as a reference point, and therefore their confidence continues to grow, giving even the idea of low self-esteem no chance of raising its ugly head. So don’t be afraid of applying the bodhichitta of aspiration again and again.
You understand that all phenomena are false, but this does not help anything. This understanding, that everything is dream-like, illusory, unreal and false should be assimilated in your being. Without taking it to heart it becomes mere platitude. This does not result in enlightenment.
If you think that appearance and emptiness are indivisible, you should be detached from appearances. Are you?
If you think that buddhas and sentient beings are indivisible, you should honor and serve sentient beings to the same degree as you would the buddhas. Do you do that?
If you think, ‘I will have no karmic ripening even if I engage in the ten nonvirtues,’ you should be able to accept the ten nonvirtuous actions of others directed towards yourself – even if you yourself are killed. Can you do that?
If you think, ‘Even if I were to engage in the ten virtues there would be no benefit,’ you should not have any sense of joy when you are benefitted by others who are practicing the ten virtues – even if your own life is saved. Do you?
Now, go again to a solitary place and let your body remain like a corpse, let your voice remain like that of a mute and let your mind remain like the sky.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
There are two kinds of ignorance: coemergent and conceptual ignorance. In the moment after seeing our essence, it almost immediately slips away. We get distracted and we start to think of something. Coemergent ignorance is simply to forget. Conceptual ignorance comes in the moment after forgetting, forming thought after thought. As one thought follows after another, a long train of thoughts can develop.Forgetting and thinking – that is the two-fold ignorance, coemergent ignorance and conceptual ignorance. If these two were purified, we would be buddhas. But as long as the coemergent and conceptual aspects of ignorance are not purified, we are sentient beings.
Our minds are usually half asleep, and even though it seems as though we’re always thinking a lot and we’re very vital and present, in fact we are almost somnolent and robotic in our reactions. The whole point of meditation is to learn how to wake up, to develop greater clarity, to be more aware and more absolutely in the moment. It is to be conscious in the moment without all our usual projections, opinions, ideas and mental chatter going on. At a fundamental level, we are awareness.
We need other possibilities for understanding who we are as individuals. On a personal level, exploring what it means to be an interdependent individual allows us to stop living at odds with reality. As we gain a more realistic understanding of who we are and how we are interconnected, our lives can become much more satisfying and meaningful.
In other words, “interdependent individual” is not a contradiction. Far from being an oxymoron, this term can be a powerful guide leading us to take better charge of our own lives.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
One of the meanings of the Sanskrit word “guru” is “teacher” or “master” and represents a person who teaches and transmits knowledge, like a master carpenter teaches an apprentice.
Imagine that although you have no talent whatsoever and are unemployed, you also have a large family to feed. One day a carpenter offers to teach you how to work with wood. After a couple of months working with him, your neighbours begin to pay you to do carpentry for them. Imagine how grateful you would be to your teacher for giving you the means of making a living, and how much you would appreciate his help.
On the spiritual path we can only attain complete spiritual enlightenment — a rather larger project than simply feeding empty bellies — with the help of a guru, and when we find one who is willing to accept and teach us, our appreciation should know no bounds.
Vajrayana texts state that for one who seeks enlightenment a guru is more important than all the buddhas of the three times put together. His job is not only to teach students but to lead them.
He is our most important companion, our family, husband, wife and beloved child, because only he can bring us to enlightenment.
Sadly, in recent years, the word guru has all but lost its original meaning. The deluded beings of this time are greedy for everything pure and stainless, so they grab at the principle of the guru, spoil it, reject it and then move on to another perfect treasure to lay waste. It has happened far too often and as a result gurus are now mistrusted in the modern world and often ridiculed in popular culture.
Nevertheless, for someone serious about following a spiritual path there is no substitute for being guided by a guru.
We follow a spiritual path because we want to defeat our emotions and attain enlightenment, and to achieve that goal we need discipline, guidance and the courage to confront everything we have spent many lifetimes trying to avoid.
This is precisely what a guru provides us with by challenging our preconceived concepts, disrupting our lives and most important of all by denying ego’s every wish.
Therefore, as Jigme Lingpa strongly advised, we should do a great deal of research about a guru before we give him or her carte blanche to torpedo our lives, because we must be able to trust him completely.
Unfortunately, very few people these days focus on such details, and this stage of the process is too often overlooked.
My dreamlike form
Appeared to dreamlike beings
To show them the dreamlike path
That leads to dreamlike enlightenment.
The key thing is to enjoy the goodness of what you are doing and feeling. Enjoy the sensation of filling your own heart with love and then offer it to others. You begin by first savoring the warm-heartedness that you give rise to, and only then expressing and extending it toward others. If it is not warming for you, how can you know it will be warming for others?
Lessons on impermanence are not absorbed overnight. Our habits are too entrenched. We learn, have insights, but we do not apply them, or are too threatened by them. The Buddha identified mistaking impermanence for permanence as one of the primary causes of suffering. Known as the Supreme Physician, he offered a cure for the sickness of samsara. But until we identify this sickness for ourselves, we will not accept the cure.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
According to the Dzogchen teachings, the state of primordial enlightenment has never been confused. The basic state of buddhas is like pure gold that is not covered by any dirt. Dirt is the example for the confused thinking that temporarily takes place. If the gold always remains pure, there is no cleaning to be done and there is no achievement of purity, because it already is like that from the beginning. That is the analogy for the state of primordial enlightenment of self-existing wakefulness that was never confused. If, first of all, there is no being confused then how can you use the phrase ‘being liberated’? It is impossible, because liberation is totally dependent upon having been confused. Since the awakened state of the buddhas are not confused, you cannot really say that buddhas become liberated either. It is only because of being mistaken that confusion can be cleared up. Unless there is confusion it is not possible to be liberated.
Appearance in itself does neither good nor harm,
But clinging to appearance binds you in existence.
Thus there is no need to search through manifold appearances.
Just cut the root of mind that clings to them.