When the time arrives — even if
A hundred eons pass —
Fruit is born of every act
That sentient beings amass.
Understanding that samsaric activities are empty of meaning,
With great compassion, you strive only for the benefit of others.
Without attachment to samsara or nirvana, you act according to the Great Vehicle.
Peerless Teacher, at your feet I bow.
14th Dalai Lama
Sometime during the early sixties when I was reflecting on a passage by Tsongkhapa [founder of the Gelugpa school to which the Dalai Lama belongs] about unfindability and the fact that phenomena are dependent on conceptuality, it was as if lightning coursed within my chest. Here is the passage:
A coiled rope’s speckled color and coiling are similar to those of a snake, and when the rope is perceived in a dim area, the thought arises, “This is a snake.” As for the rope, at that time when it is seen to be a snake, the collection and parts of the rope are not even in the slightest way a snake. Therefore, that snake is merely set up by conceptuality.
In the same way, when the thought “I” arises in dependence upon mind and body, nothing within mind and body—neither the collection which is a continuum of earlier and later moments, nor the collection of the parts at one time, nor the separate parts, nor the continuum of any of the separate parts—is in even the slightest way the “I.” Also there is not even the slightest something that is a different entity from mind and body that is apprehendable as the “I.” Consequently, the “I” is merely set up by conceptuality in dependence upon mind and body; it is not established by way of its own entity.
The impact lasted for a while, and for the next few weeks whenever I saw people, they seemed like a magician’s illusions in that they appeared to inherently exist but I knew that they actually did not. That experience, which was like lightning in my heart, was most likely at a level below completely valid and incontrovertible realization. This is when my understanding of the cessation of the afflictive emotions as a true possibility became real.
There is a teaching that says that behind all hardening and tightening and rigidity of the heart, there’s always fear. But if you touch fear, behind fear there is a soft spot. And if you touch that soft spot, you find the vast blue sky. You find that which is ineffable, ungraspable, and unbiased, that which can support and awaken us at any time.
The bodhisattva just acts according to the true, present moment, through which he develops a kind of warmth. And there is a great warmth in this awareness and also great creativity. His actions are not limited by anything and all sorts of creative impulses just arise in him and are somehow exactly right for that particular moment. Things just happen and he simply sails through them, so there is a continual, tremendous creativity in him. That is the real act of Karuna – a Sanskrit word which means ‘Noble Heart’ , or ‘Compassionate Heart’.
Each instant, put your heart into it again.
Each moment, remind yourself again.
Each second, check yourself again.
Night and day, make your resolve again.
In the morning, commit yourself again.
Each meditation session, examine mind minutely.
Never be apart from dharma, not even accidentally.
Continually, do not forget.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
You will probably be able to see the living for a few days after you die and may even try to make contact with them. In practice, the dead rarely interact successfully with the living and eventually are unable to see the living at all.
One of the most painful experiences suffered by bardo beings is the sudden loss of the kind of social interaction they were used to while they were alive. They feel lost, abandoned and very lonely.
This is one of the reasons why the motivation and actions of the living are so important, especially when it comes to the distribution of the dead person’s money, resources and belongings.
The dead probably only react strongly to the living when they are provoked. But extreme emotions are very dangerous for dead people and if the bardo being were to get angry because a loathed cousin had taken possession of a much-loved leather attaché case, that flash of emotion could have the power to block the dead person’s progress through the karmic bardo of becoming and may even cause them to get stuck as a negative spirit. If that were to happen, their bardo experience would not be limited to forty-nine days, it could last for aeons.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
When you think about samsara, if you feel as if you were aboard a sinking ship, as if you had fallen into a pit of deadly snakes, or as if you were a criminal about to be handed over to the executioner, these are sure signs that you have discarded the belief in the permanence of things. It is the authentic understanding of impermanence dawning in your mind.
Tulku Pema Rigtsal
Since the essence of pure presence is unchangeable, it is the fivefold body of buddha: the changeless vajrakaya, the manifest bodhikaya, the dharmakaya, the sambhogakaya, and the nirmanakaya.
Since the essence of pure presence is inexpressible, it is the fivefold buddha speech: the speech of bodhi-reality, the speech inseparable from the vajra, the speech of unborn meaning, the speech of meaningful symbol, and verbal speech.
Since the essence of pure presence is free of conceptual elaboration, it is the fivefold buddha mind: the mind of intrinsic awareness, mind of mirrorlike awareness, mind of awareness of sameness, mind of discriminating awareness, and mind of bodhi-accomplishing awareness.
Since the essence of pure presence accomplishes the nine wishes to completion, it possesses the manifest fivefold buddha-potential: it is the ground of every perfection and, more particularly, is the throne of the noble ones, pure and clear light, the boundless mansion, and a pure-land.
Since the four perfectly appropriate activities are accomplished in the same purity as primal awareness in the essence of pure presence, immaculate reality contains five buddhaactivities: pacification, enrichment, control, destruction, and spontaneity.
The great compassion taught in Buddhism is not merely an emotional response tinged with sadness or fear that comes and goes in response to a temporary situation. It is not superficial in this way but deep and, therefore, stable as well. This profound stability is due to our compassion being based on wisdom and reasoning. This compassion is not mere empathy or sympathy, not some kind of concern or affection. It is not saying, ‘I know what you’re going through.’ Or ‘I get your situation.’ It is also not coming from someone high up to someone low down. Actually, it is not the case that the person feeling compassion is in a good place and the other is down on their luck, so the one better off is bestowing their compassionate action on the unfortunate person down there.
Actually, true compassion makes little distinction between self and other. We naturally feel that we are a part of others and they are a part of us. We can feel their suffering one hundred percent or at least, really know a good deal of what it is like, and so we are able to take on all or most of their burden. This is the capacity we need to develop. It means that we feel little or no gap between ourselves and others; apprehending a self and an other is weak or nonexistent, for the sense of separation into two has faded away.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
When you reach the threshold of death, the friends and relatives around you have no way of accompanying you any further. There is very little they can do to help you at all. Not even the richest magnate can take a penny of his wealth with him, and it would be in vain that even the most powerful of generals ordered his troops to keep death at bay — like everyone else, he will just have to surrender.
Your consciousness will leave your body and wander in the bardo. There, with an illusory mental body, you will find yourself alone in the shadows, lost and desperate, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to go. The hallucinations that torment most beings at that time are terrifying beyond description. Although they are no more than projections of the mind, they nevertheless have a powerful reality at the time.
The only possible source of comfort will be the experience you may have acquired through practicing the Dharma. That is why it is so important to make the effort to practice now. Even in times of peace, a nation foresees the eventuality of war and remains ready to respond. In the same way, stay on the alert, and prepare yourself for death by practicing the Dharma. Like an eternal harvest, it will keep you supplied with provisions for the life to come and will be the very basis of your future happiness.
Feeling divided from ourselves and the world around us is the deceptive narrative of the grasping mind. But we can learn to let go of false hopes that leave us yearning for ease in our bodies and in this world. We can move beyond our discontent. We can replace longing with love. As I was just beginning to discover, when you love the world, the world loves you back.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Vajra hell is a profound concept. It’s not necessarily a place where you burn in molten iron surrounded by hell guardians with hideous faces. Vajra hell can be a place where you become so attached to the logic of karma that you get entangled, so caught up by rationality that you cannot get beyond it.
In vajra hell you will never understand the profound meaning when we say shit and food have one taste because you have stubbornly and absolutely become rational. Having broken an extreme samaya vow, you may end up being reborn with a habit of not trusting the grand view. You will end up a person who needs to have the omelet assembled before you see it as an omelet.
And that, in the Vajrayana view, is even worse than burning in hell. This strong habit of no confidence in the method is a heavy loss for you.
E Ma Ho
Through the merit we have accumulated in the three times
May demons, obstacles and opposing forces be pacified.
May we have long life without sickness
And may we practice the Dharma in happiness and well-being.
By the power of practicing the Dharma with devotion
May the teachings of the Buddha spread and flourish.
By establishing samsaric sentient beings in happiness
May the wishes of the holy gurus be fulfilled.
Through the guru’s kindness may we,
All Dharma brothers and sisters,
Be free from the kleshas of anger and attachment.
Endowed with the splendor of the three vows of pure discipline
May we increase the qualities of experience and realization.
By the wisdom of realizing mahamudra
May we benefit whoever we meet.
Together with all our followers may we enjoy the unconditioned great bliss,
And be guided to the lotus arrayed realm.
In that supreme and sacred blissful realm,
May we be one with the stainless victorious body
Of the guru of the three kayas, Orgyen Padma,
And realize the dharmakaya that benefits us.
Through the compassion that benefits others, until samsara is emptied,
May we tame beings by teaching in whatever way is necessary.
May we work for the benefit of all through rupakaya manifestations.
May we accomplish the benefit of beings by stirring the depths of samsara.
The three kayas inseparable, samsara and nirvana totally freed,
Unfabricated, spontaneously present, luminous and unformed,
The body of the vajra holder, changeless throughout the three times,
May this omniscient and complete enlightenment be swiftly attained.
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.