When we connect with our heart of devotion, then, in that moment, we are connecting very powerfully, immediately, and directly with the awakened heart of the guru and the lineage, as well as our own inherently awakened state. Working with our devotion means that we are not just relying on our own efforts. We are opening ourselves to a source of blessings that is an embodiment and a reflection of our own fundamental nature.
Who ever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain? It’s promoted rather widely in this world, and we buy it. But pain and pleasure go together; they are inseparable. They can be celebrated. They are ordinary.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Shouldn’t we all try to contemplate the inevitability of our own death at least once this lifetime? Particularly as every one of us will die – itself a crucially important piece of information. Doesn’t putting some effort into processing the inescapable fact of our own death make sense?
What should you do after you get up from your meditation session? Consider all phenomena to be like illusions or dreams. You should do all your activities of walking, sitting, eating, and lying down within that state of mind.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye
Self and other — everything — is as a dream;
There isn’t even the slightest thing which is truly established.
When you maintain the natural state as it is
Without spoiling or fabricating your mind,
The emptiness of all inner and outer phenomena
Is realized to be the sky-like union of clarity and emptiness.
That is ultimate bodhicitta.
Migrating beings who do not realize this
Wander in saṃsāra under the influence of dualistic apprehension.
We see pixels on a screen and hear the digital reproduction of someone’s voice and think, “I see them, they see me, and we can talk.” But when you get right down to it, there is no one there. It is an electronic and therefore artificial representation we are gazing at and talking to. This may be an entertaining way to pass our time, but when we are in real emotional pain, these electronic connections fall far short of the comfort and intimacy we yearn for. It is extremely difficult for technology to transmit the basic human warmth that we all need, and that we especially seek in our moments of pain.
When you are hurt, sometimes you just want someone to hug you. A flat screen cannot hold your hand and share your pain. Even if your loneliness is relieved by a text message or a smiling face on your screen, those data bytes can never fully replace the full vividness of direct contact with someone who is present with you physically and emotionally.
Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up. We can use everything that occurs — whether it’s our conflicting emotions and thoughts or our seemingly outer situation — to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservations.
What we need is to be interested and to watch, but not interfere or be caught up in what we are thinking. Don’t think of the past, don’t anticipate the future, don’t get fascinated by the present. See it as it is. Just be there with it. A thought is just a thought. An emotion is just an emotion. It is like a bubble. It will burst and another one will come up.
When we first begin to put this into practice the mind begins to split. We develop what is called the observer, the witness, the knower. This is an aspect of the mind. It is still just mind, conceptual mind, but it is a mind which is standing back and looking at what is going on, as if at a distance. In itself, this is not ultimate reality, because it is still a dualistic mind. But it is a vast improvement on the way we normally think, because it gives us the space to see a thought as a thought and an emotion as an emotion. Then we can decide whether this is a useful thought or emotion or not. We know it for what is, rather than being absorbed in it. We no longer identify with it.
If we develop this inner awareness, which is like an inner space, we can ride the waves of life. People imagine that to be a meditator you have to always live in very tranquil situations and that you are likely to be inundated if a turbulent situation arises. This is true for beginners, just as it is for someone who is learning how to surf. At the beginning, they have to stick to the small waves otherwise they will be bowled over. But an expert surfer looks for the big waves. The greater the waves, the more fun, once you have your balance. The secret is to be balanced, to be poised. To be a good surfer you need to be neither too tense nor too relaxed, just balanced. This is what we need in our practice, too.
When we develop this inner space, everything takes on a dream-like quality. Not dream-like in the sense of being sleepy, but in that it is no longer so solid, so real, so urgent. It has a quality almost like an illusion. You don’t take it quite so seriously, because you are not so totally involved in it. Now when we have that sense of stepping back and seeing life with a degree of clarity, we are able to respond to situations which arise with freshness and spontaneity, instead of our usual automatic response, which is like pressing a button on a machine. We begin to respond naturally and in an appropriate manner.
Thoughts are merely an impression of something being there. It is only when we fail to recognize the essence of this vividness that thoughts feel very concrete, if not overwhelming. However, when you look into the nature of thoughts and emotions, you will find that they only seem to exist; they have no concrete reality.
Every time you connect, a little bit more clarity stays around the love, a little bit more space opens up around it. your mind becomes clearer. you experience expanded possibilities. You become a little more confident, a little more willing to connect with others, a little more willing to open up to other people, whether that means talking about your own stuff or listen to theirs. And as that happens a little miracle occurs: You’re giving, without expectation in return. Your very being becomes, consciously or not, an inspiration to others.
Sitting practice is not always going to be smooth, pleasant, comfy, and nice – it is also going to be very painful. However, whether you are experiencing pain or pleasure, what really is needed is the subtle humor of somebody standing behind your back willing to kick you off the cliff. You may think you are drowning, but you have to drown more! It cannot be helped.
I want to share with you a feeling I have. I feel that my love does not have to remain within the limitations of my own life or body. I imagine that if I am no longer in the world, my love could still be present. I want to place my love on the moon and let the moon hold my love. Let the moon be the keeper of my love, offering it to everyone just as the moon sends its light to embrace the whole earth. Since the moon is holding the love I have for you, seeing the moon can remind you of that, and inspire you. If anything I have said here makes sense to you, you can ask the moon to keep it for you. You can ask the stars to keep it for you. When you look at the moon and the stars, I hope you will be reminded of the thoughts and the love I have shared with you here.
I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves. Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening. And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment. When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need when everything falls apart.
Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
This excellent support, a human form with its freedoms and advantages,
Is so difficult to obtain; but now that we have actually gained one,
Let us strive to make it meaningful and realize its full potential,
Without squandering the opportunity and letting it go to waste.
Discard all lingering doubts, and strive with dedication in your practice. Thoroughly relinquish sloth, mental dullness, and laziness, and strive always with joyful perseverance.
One may think: “We concede that our decisions are unreliable, but when we follow the decisions of the Buddha, we are infallible.” Then who decided that the Buddha is infallible? If you say, “The great scholars and adepts like Nagarjuna decided that he is infallible,” then who decided that Nagarjuna is infallible? If you say, “The Foremost Lama Tsong khapa decided it,” then who knows that the Foremost Lama is infallible? If you say, “Our kind and peerless lama, the excellent and great so and so decided,” then infallibility, which depends on your excellent lama, is decided by your own mind. In fact, therefore, it is a tiger who vouches for a lion, it is a yak who vouches for a tiger, it is a dog who vouches for a yak, it is a mouse who vouches for a dog, it is an insect who vouches for a mouse. Thus, an insect is made the final voucher for them all. Therefore, when one analyzes in detail the final basis for any decision, apart from coming back to one’s own mind, nothing else whatsoever is perceived.
The practice of meditation consists of working with thought. As thoughts arise, they are the natural display of the mind, and we simply do not follow them. By not following them, we also don’t try to stop them or get rid of them. By not following our thoughts, we find that the thoughts will lessen and we will begin to experience that underlying cognitive clarity without thought.
Taming the mind takes time. Through good and bad moods, through periods of peacefulness and klesha attacks, we train in being present. Day by day, month by month, year by year, we become better able to keep a rule of life, better able to lead the life of a bodhisattva who can hear the cries of the world and extend a hand.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
The Buddha gave eighty-four thousand different teachings, all of them designed to subdue ego-clinging. This was the only reason why he set them forth. If they do not act as an antidote for our attachment to self then all practice is in vainas was the case with the Buddha’s cousin Devadatta. He knew as many sutras as an elephant could carry on its back but because he could not shake off his clinging to self he went to hell in his next life.
The extent to which we have been able to overcome our self-attachment will show the degree to which we have used the Dharma properly. So let us try very hard.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Another danger is that Buddhism is becoming synonymous with mindfulness, happiness, and nonviolence. Many people think that’s all there is. When they talk about mindfulness, they immediately think of sitting cross-legged on a cushion with a straight back. This kind of thinking will destroy Buddhism. If we choose to emphasize only one technique, the others will start to rot, and when even one rots, like a bad apple, it will spoil the whole bunch. Longchenpa saw this even in the twelfth century. He said if such degeneration happens, it will be like pouring milk inside a clay pot that hasn’t been put in the kiln. The pot will crumble, and the milk will also spoil. So abundance and variety in the teachings is so important. Otherwise, if the mindfulness movement doesn’t work in a place like America, Americans will throw the baby out with the bathwater and discount all of Buddhism. This would be such a loss.