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.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
When pure gold is covered by dirt it is not obvious that it is gold, even though this dirt is temporary. But once it is removed we realize that the gold is gold. In the same way, when our confusion is purified, the wisdom which is our basic wakefulness is made manifest.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Even though we don’t consider ourselves to be so desperate, and believe that we are well educated, sane, and sober, when we see and feel that everything truly exists, we are behaving like the man in the desert. We rush to find authentic companionship, security, recognition, and success, or simply peace and quiet. We may even succeed in grasping some semblance of our desires. But just like the wanderer, when we depend on external substantiation, eventually we are disappointed. Things are not as they seem: they are impermanent and they are not entirely within our control.
In terms of our nature — our constant yearning to be happy and to be free of suffering — we are profoundly the same and close. Yet through habituation and conditioning, we grow distant. We invest tremendous importance in our differences — our different beliefs, different cultural assumptions, and different identities. We cover our sameness up with layers of difference. No wonder we then find it hard to connect and feel close, although a wish to connect is grounded deep in our being. What can we do to protect and enhance our innate ability to connect with others? I will talk later about strengthening our basic empathy, but I also think that connecting and staying connected with our own good qualities is a powerful step we can take to be able to feel close to others. What’s more, we are always surrounded by others, and connected to others, including people we do not see and will never meet but who have contributed to who we are. Reflecting on interdependence and consciously training ourselves to identify it at work in our lives allows us to cultivate an awareness of others’ presence as part of us.
In meditation we discover our inherent restlessness. Sometimes we get up and leave. Sometimes we sit there but our bodies wiggle and squirm and our minds go far away. This can be so uncomfortable that we feel’s it’s impossible to stay. Yet this feeling can teach us not just about ourselves but what it is to be human…we really don’t want to stay with the nakedness of our present experience. It goes against the grain to stay present. These are the times when only gentleness and a sense of humor can give us the strength to settle down…so whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to “stay” and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay! Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay! Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay! What’s for lunch? Stay! I can’t stand this another minute! Stay!
Whether or not we have great responsibilities to fulfill, whether or not we are very busy, whether or not we are rich, whether or not we are scholars, or whether or not we do menial labor, none of these things has any bearing on the practice of Mahamudra. Under any circumstances, we can always practice Mahamudra, and we can accomplish supreme siddhi.
I understand that there is no self, but still have gross concepts of “I.”
I have decided to renounce duality, but am beset by hopes and fears.
Bless me and all those like me who believe in a self
That we may realize the natural state, the absence of self.
Master Padma said: When practicing the Dharma there are seven types of corruption.
The lady asked: What are they?
The master said: if your faith is small while your intelligence is great, you become corrupted by considering yourself a teacher.
If you have many listeners while your self-regard is high, you become corrupted by considering yourself a spiritual friend.
If you assume superior qualities while not having taken the Dharma to heart, you become corrupted by considering yourself a leader.
If you give oral instructions while not practicing them yourself, you become corrupted by being an insensitive “Dharma expert.”
If you are fond of senseless babble while lacking the Dharma in your heart, you become corrupted by being a craving charlatan yogi.
If you have little learning while lacking the oral instructions, you become corrupted by being a commoner though your faith may be great.
A genuine practitioner who acts in accordance with the true teachings should liberate his being with intelligence, tame his mind with faith, cut misconceptions with listening to teachings, cast away social concerns, mingle his mind with the Dharma, perfect his knowledge with learning and reflecting, resolve his mind with the oral instructions, and gain final certainty through the view and meditation. That, however, is difficult.
When the mind is at peace,
the world too is at peace.
Nothing real, nothing absent.
Not holding on to reality,
not getting stuck in the void,
you are neither holy nor wise,
just an ordinary person who has completed their work.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
If we have both mindfulness and awareness, when the mind is wild and distracted, thinking only about worldly things, we should think that until now we have been caught up in the suffering of samsara, and realize how useless everything is that we do in that regard. If the mind is spoiled by being caught up in that way, there will be no way to become free from the suffering of the three lower realms. If the mind is not spoiled, our bliss and happiness will increase, just like that of the exalted ones. Thinking of that, we should try to heal the mind. In the beginning, it is very difficult to control, but gradually, as we get used to doing so, it becomes easier.
The basis of the mahayana practice differs from the hinayana in that one does not practice abandonment, rejection, etc. Instead, in mahayana, one deals with one’s behavior in a manner of transformation. For example, if the desire to harm another sentient being arises on the crest of a wave of great anger, then one immediately applies the antidote of compassion; the energy of the anger is thereby transformed into compassion. One does not deal with an emotion simply by cutting it off; rather, one uses compassion to transform it on the basis of its inherent insubstantiality.
In their ignorance, sentient beings think all that they experience is real, and their misconception entails their experiencing a great deal of suffering. Ones sees that all sentient beings are experiencing the illusory manifestations of the three bodies (the fully ripened, the habitual tendency, and the mental bodies), and that they are completely locked in these illusions. Recognizing the habitual clinging of these three categories of sentient phenomena as being only illusory appearance, then one recognizes emptiness.
By recognizing that one’s delusion and habitual clinging cause suffering, an intense compassion can arise. The recognition of emptiness itself is referred to as wisdom, and the arising compassion is referred to by the term means. The path of recognizing the emptiness of these three categories of phenomena, and of developing compassion for all those experiencing such delusion, is the path of mahayana, and this path has its pinnacle in the union of means and wisdom.
It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view. When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn’t matter whether its been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades. The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn’t see before. Its never too late to take a moment to look.
Living in a society should be our daily reminder of how much we receive from and owe to one another. A clear awareness of this debt for the kindness we receive from others can provide a stable foundation for engagement in social service or activism. Our actions can be grounded in the simple wish to care for others as we ourselves have been cared for by the world.
It can be difficult to accept others and to accept ourselves. “I should be better. I should be something different. I should have more.” All of this is conception; it’s all mental fabrication. It’s just the mind churning up “shoulds,” “ought tos,” and “supposed tos.” All this is conceptual rubbish, and yet we believe it. Part of the solution is to recognize that these thoughts are conceptual rubbish and not reality; this gives us the mental space not to believe them. When we stop believing them, it becomes much easier to accept what we are at any given moment, knowing we will change in the next moment. We’ll be able to accept what others are in one moment, knowing that they will be different in the next moment. This is good stuff for everyday practice; it’s very practical.
14th Dalai Lama
The success of our lives and our future depends on our motivation and determination or self-confidence. Through difficult experiences, life sometimes becomes more meaningful. If you look at people who, from the beginning of their lives, have had everything, you may see that when small things happen they soon lose hope or grow irritated. Others have developed stronger mental attitudes as a result of their hardships.
Don’t seek profit over and above what your work is worth. Acquiring false profit makes a fool (of oneself). So an ancient once said, “Be rich in honesty.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
We want to understand ourselves, the world around us, and what it means to be alive on Earth. We want to discover who we really are, and we want to understand our suffering. Understanding our suffering gives rise to acceptance and love, and this is what determines our quality of life. We all need to be understood and to be loved. And we all want to understand and to love.
Nowadays we all boast that we are Dharma practitioners, but we have not severed our attachment to the things of this life, we have not turned our minds away from cyclic existence, we have not relinquished even the smallest of our desires — for friends and relations, entourage, servants, food and clothes, pleasant conversation, and the like. As a result, any positive activities we undertake are not really effective. Our minds and the Dharma go different ways.