Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
Every kind of teaching is transmitted through the culture and knowledge of human beings. But it is important not to confuse any culture or tradition with the teachings themselves, because the essence of the teachings is knowledge of the nature of the individual. Any given culture can be of great value because it is the means which enables people to receive the message of a teaching, but it is not the teaching itself.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Remembering everything you experience is created by mind is also the direct antidote to pride and ego, and once it becomes second nature, you will no longer cling to your dharma activities. This does not mean you will not practise. On the contrary, in the same way someone dying of thirst cannot resist taking large gulps of water, once you know everything is an illusion, your only thoughts will be about the dharma. Of course, the dharma itself is the antidote to ego, but for those who take pride in being good practitioners, dharma activities can be just another means of boosting their egos. And this is why it is so important to remember that absolutely everything we experience is just a product of mind, even if it’s only for five minutes a day.
If you exaggerate the value of external objects, thinking that they are the most important things in life, you ignore your inner beauty and internal joyful energy; if you look only outside of yourself, you neglect your most precious human qualities — your intellect and your potential to communicate in higher ways. Thus, meditation shows you clean clear which objects of attachment confuse you and with which kinds of mind you relate to them.
3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
The Tibetan word for Buddhism, nangpa, has the meaning of internalizing, indicating that we need to turn inward and work within ourselves. By doing so and gaining a clearer sense of who we really are, we develop a sense of our existence as it relates to all that surrounds us. If we look outside and try to figure out what is out there based on confused mental projections, we will never recognize who we are. What is fundamentally true is that the experience of pain or pleasure is not so much what is happening externally as it is what is happening internally: the experience of pain or pleasure is mainly a state of mind. Whether we experience the world as enlightened or confused depends on our state of mind.
Giving, opening, sacrificing ego is necessary. It is like performing an operation. It might be painful because finally we realize that we cannot take part in our own burial. Very painful. We lose our grip on the wishful-thinking world of pleasure and goodness. We have to give up trying to associate ourselves with goodness. Having a relationship with this may be extremely difficult. It’s an organic operation without any anesthetics.
Thoughts are just displays of the mind. They may be waves stirring up the all-ground consciousness, but this is not a fault. If you just rest loosely in them, they will disappear right there. This is why when we meditate we should let the thoughts that occur in the sixth mental consciousness relax into the all-ground consciousness.
Patience is not learned in safety. It is not learned when everything is harmonious and going well. When everything is smooth sailing, who needs patience? If you stay in your room with the door locked and the curtains drawn, everything may seem harmonious, but the minute anything doesn’t go your way, you blow up. There is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
In ancient India, people used the term “guru” with genuine veneration. If a guru was not a savior, at least he or she was worthy of trust, someone to lean on. Spiritual gurus were associated with wisdom and protection, leading a way on a path to the truth. Now the word “guru” is frequently associated with power, sex, money, hypocrisy, and, in the Tibetan’s case, thrones, brocades, entourages, and glittering monasteries. It has been reduced to mean a person rather than a path or a technique.
As I have said, language and definitions have a powerful impact on our understanding, so it’s important to discuss the various meanings and interpretations of “guru”. The Sanskrit word guru is elastic. Taxi drivers call each other “guru”. Students call their math teachers “guru”. But the Tantric Buddhist word “Guru” is not the same as the “priest” or “houfo” (Chinese for “living Buddha”).
Chinese also have something called fawang, which means “Dharma king,” but this concept has nothing to do with Buddhism; it’s cultural. It’s rise in popularity has created a rush of activity among the Tibetans to acquire the fawang title. Imagine a Vatican with one hundred popes, some of whom are just ten years old and barely know how to wipe their noses. That is the kind of result the Tibetans are getting.
Even the Tibetan term tulku, meaning “manifestation,” and yangsi, meaning “reexisting” or “reincarnation,” are not synonymous with “guru.” Just because someone is a priest, a huofo, a tulku, or a yangsi does not mean he or she is ready-made guru to be sought after.
These forms are not the means of obtaining the right state of mind. To take this posture is itself to have the right state of mind. There is no need to obtain some special state of mind.
Take the initiative to seek out information, and then merge what you learn with your feelings. This is a way to use the Internet wisely, to allow you to feel your connectedness. You could read about the daily lives of people in that country. You could do a search for images of factory workers. When you find them, look into their eyes, and reflect that they or someone like them ran the machine that sewed your garments. You could learn more about the circumstances of their lives, and try to feel how your life would be if you had grown accustomed to living under those conditions.
When it is grounded in gratitude and a sense of closeness, your greater awareness of the disparities between your living conditions and theirs could motivate you to act to improve their circumstances. At a minimum, each time you put on an article of clothing, you can recognize that you are wearing a sign of others’ kindness. You could feel as close to others as your clothes are to you.
Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche
It is exactly as the omniscient Longchenpa said: When the wise and virtuous are not held in esteem, yet affected and ignorant ones are immensely honored, this is a mark of the degenerate age! When these shallow, ignorant people are respected by others, their arrogance also increases. Like pouring gasoline on a fire, eventually it can only harm others without benefiting themselves.
I want you to understand clean clear that we distinguish two things: negative, or sinful, and positive. Attachment, or desire, can be negative and sinful, but it can also be positive. The positive aspect is that which produces pleasure: samsaric pleasure, human pleasure — the ability to enjoy the world, to see it as beautiful, to have whatever you find attractive.
So you cannot say that all desire is negative and produces only pain. Wrong. You should not think like that. Desire can produce pleasure — but only temporary pleasure. That’s the distinction. It’s temporary pleasure. And we don’t say that temporal pleasure is always bad, that you should reject it. If you reject temporal pleasure, then what’s left? You haven’t attained eternal happiness yet, so all that’s left is misery.
But you should not make the mistake of trying to actualize temporary pleasure [as an end in itself]. You can enjoy it while you have it but you should not squeeze yourself striving for it. The problem is the mind that believes temporary pleasure to be the best there is. That’s a total delusion, an over-estimated conception. Like looking at a cloud in the sky and thinking, “What a beautiful cloud; I wish it would last forever.” You’re dreaming.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
The root of all dharmas is one’s own mind:
Convincing when unexamined, ingenious in its deception;
Yet, when investigated, without basis or origin;
In essence, free of coming, staying or going.
All the phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa
Are but pure or impure projections of one’s own mind.
In reality, neither saṃsāra nor nirvāṇa exists.
Empty from the very beginning, pure from the first —
Still, this emptiness is not a nihilistic void,
For there is spontaneous presence in the nature of clear light.
Responsive pure awareness is the basis for all that unfolds.
Rigpa is beyond designation and verbalization.
From its potential saṃsāra and nirvāṇa arise in all their multiplicity.
The manifestation and the one that brings it about are not two:
In the experience of this non-duality, remain—unaltered.
Some people cannot enter the gate of Dharma at all. Their lives come to an end without their even hearing about the Dharma. Unlike such people, we have had the extremely good fortune to hear about the Dharma and even start to practice the Dharma, so there is no reason whatsoever to be discouraged. We should be happy and excited about this.
As human beings we are as impermanent as everything else is. Every cell in the body is continuously changing. Thoughts and emotions rise and fall away unceasingly. When we’re thinking that we’re competent or that we’re hopeless – what are we basing it on? On this fleeting moment? On yesterday’s success or failure? We cling to a fixed idea of who we are and it cripples us. Nothing and no one is fixed.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Habit makes us weak against the self. Even simple habits die hard. You may be aware of how bad smoking is for your health, but that doesn’t necessarily convince you to stop smoking, especially when you enjoy the ritual, the slender shape of the cigarette, the way the tobacco smolders, the fragrant smoke curling around your fingers.
But the habit of self is not just a simple addiction like smoking cigarettes. From time immemorial we have been addicted to the self. It is how we identify ourselves. It is what we love most dearly. It is also what we hate most fiercely at times. Its existence is also the thing that we work hardest to try to validate. Almost everything that we do or think or have, including our spiritual path, is a means to confirm its existence. It is the self that fears failure and longs for success, fears hell and longs for heaven. The self loathes suffering and loves the causes of suffering. It stupidly wages war in the name of peace. It wishes for enlightenment but detests the path to enlightenment. It wishes to work as a socialist but live as a capitalist.
When the self feels lonely, it desires friendship. Its possessiveness of those it loves manifests in passion that can lead to aggression. Its supposed enemies — such as spiritual paths designed to conquer the ego—are often corrupted and recruited as the self’s ally. Its skill in playing the game of deception is nearly perfect. It weaves a cocoon around itself like a silkworm; but unlike a silkworm, it doesn’t know how to find the way out.
The impulse to connect arises naturally in human beings, as is clearly visible in us when we are children. Later, as we become adults, this ability is eroded by doubts, fears, and suspicions. For example, if there are two families living in an apartment building and each has a young child, the parents might pass each other in the lobby without exchanging a single word or even making eye contact, but the children will undoubtedly acknowledge each other when they meet. If a small child in front of the building spots another at a window on an upper floor, she may spontaneously wave, and the other child will wave back.
I have heard of a research study done on interaction in elevators between strangers, both human and chimpanzee. An adult human was told to take the elevator to the ground floor. On their way down, the elevator stopped on an intervening floor and another person stepped in and pressed the button for another intervening floor. The person in the elevator first often displayed agitation and certainly had no smile or word of greeting to spare for the person slowing them down in this way, even though they were sharing a small space. Yet when the experiment was done with two chimpanzees, when the chimpanzees suddenly found themselves in the same elevator, they expressed delight at meeting another of their kind and joyfully embraced one another. The human beings were also meeting another of their kind and, even more than chimpanzees, were equipped with the capacity to recognize that fact. We humans have so much in common and easily feel connected when we are young. But we often do not manage to retain the ability to feel spontaneously close to others as we grow older.
There is a story about a monk who had an extremely ugly body but a beautiful voice. People loved to hear him chant but recoiled when they saw him. Someone who had clairvoyant powers saw that in a previous lifetime, while constructing a stupa — a monument representing the Buddha’s mind — he continually complained and showed an ugly face. When the stupa was completed, he had a change of heart and offered a bell with a charming and elegant sound to the stupa. His ugly body was a result of his anger while making the stupa, and his beautiful voice was the result of having later offered the lovely-sounding bell to the stupa.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye
All of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are your own mind;
They don’t arise from anything else in the slightest.
Everything, such as joy and suffering, good and bad,
High and low, are the conceptual constructs of mind.
If your mind is pure, you are buddha:
Wherever you reside is a pure realm;
Whatever you do is from the state of the dharmatā;
Whatever appears is the jewel display of wisdom.
If your mind is of an impure nature,
You’ll see faults even in the buddhas,
You’ll get angry even at your parents,
Most things will appear as if they were your enemies.
For buddhahood, the goal to be achieved,
The supreme instrument is bodhichitta,
Gained through four unbounded attitudes.
And as this wondrous chariot makes its way
In aspiration and in action, it causes the inferior view, the wish for one’s own peace, to wane.