Serkong Rinpoche: Introduction to Lam rim

General Introduction to the Initial Scope Teachings 
of the Graded Path (Lam-rim)

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche I translated by Alexander Berzin, 
edited by Samaya Hart 
Huizen, Holland, May 1980 [Lightly edited transcript of an incomplete recording]

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Contents

Day One: Spiritual Teachers, Precious Human Life, Death and Impermanence

Healthy Relationships with Spiritual Teachers

The Rarity of Opportunities to Meet with the Dharma

The Meaning of Dharma and the Three Levels of Dharma Practice

Achieving Happiness

Becoming Mindful of Death and Impermanence

A Precious Human Life

The Pointlessness of Working for Accomplishments Only for This Lifetime

Refraining from Taking the Life of Others

Refraining from Stealing

Refraining from Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Refraining from Lying

Refraining from Using Divisive Language

Day Two: Karma and Refuge

Continuation of Refraining from Using Divisive Language

Refraining from Harsh Speech

Refraining from Idle Chatter

Refraining from Covetous Thoughts

Refraining from Thoughts of Malice

Refraining from Thinking with a Distorted View

Impulses (Karma) and Pathways for Impulses (Karmic Paths)

The Heaviness of Actions

The Results of Actions

The Strength of Potentials

The Eight Ripened Good Qualities of a Precious Human Life

The Necessity of Refraining from Destructive Actions as Preparation for Tantra

Working up to, and Doing Actions

Intentions and Actions

Harmful and Beneficial Results

The Four Principles of Actions

Gaining Confidence in the Truth of the Teachings on Karma

Taking Refuge – the Buddhas

The Advent of Buddhas in This World

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Body

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Speech

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Mind

The Buddha Jewel

The Dharma Jewel

The Sangha Jewel

Concluding Advice

Day One: Spiritual Teachers, Precious Human Life, Death and Impermanence

[The recording of the beginning of the lecture is missing; this transcript is therefore incomplete.]

Healthy Relationships with Spiritual Teachers

It is very important for the disciple to examine and check the lama very carefully before studying with him. Don’t go just because a famous teaching is being given. You have to examine the lama very carefully. It is said in a text, that it takes about twelve years for the master and disciple to check each other to see whether they can establish a proper relationship. Although this is the case, that is actually a very long time, and there are many shortcomings in taking so long.

There is the example of a great Sakya master who was invited to China to teach the emperor. The emperor examined him for a period of nine years before finally deciding to study with him. After the nine years, he asked him to teach. When the master asked him, “Why did you wait nine years before asking for teachings?” the emperor said, “I was checking you this whole time.” The master replied, “Now I will take another nine years to examine you!” In fact, it turned out that he was never able to teach the emperor. If you wait too long, that can happen.

As for how to examine a lama these days, the first point can be made with these two questions: What type of feeling did you get when you first met the master? Did your mind immediately become very happy, or did nothing happen at all? Also, when you just heard the name of the master for the first time, did it make you feel happy, or not? The second point is when you first went to meet the master, was he actually there, or not? Sometimes, when people go for the first time to meet a master, the master is not at home. That is not a very auspicious sign. The third point is to listen to what others say about the spiritual master, and hear various opinions. Even though it is difficult for spiritual masters to have all the proper qualifications, the main points are that they need to have a very warm and kind heart, a very intense loving concern for everyone, and they need to be honest.

It is very important to make a proper examination of the spiritual master or lama before going to study with them. Don’t just get excited when you hear that some lama is coming, and go without giving it any thought. That is not at all proper. But once you have committed yourself wholeheartedly to a spiritual master, it is no longer the proper time to have doubts and check up on him or her.

In the past, translators and people from Tibet, like the great translator Marpa, went through a great many difficulties to gather gold to travel to India and meet spiritual masters. Milarepa, who studied with Marpa, had to build a nine-story tower by himself, by hand. He carried the rocks on his back, and developed terrible sores. He experienced a great deal of pain. Even after he built the tower, Marpa would not give him any initiations or teachings. Marpa had another disciple called Ngog Choku-dorjey (rNgog Chos-sku rdo-rje) who had requested Chakrasamvara initiation. He lived about one day’s horse ride away. When the tower was finished, Marpa’s wife Dagmeyma (bDag-med-ma) gave birth to a son named Darma-dodey (Dar-ma mdo-sde). In celebration of the birth of his son, as well as a celebration of Milarepa’s finishing the nine-story tower, Marpa sent a message to Ngog Choku-dorjey saying that he was going to give a Chakrasamvara initiation, and that he needed to come for that.

When Ngog Choku-dorjey arrived, he brought everything that he owned as an offering to Marpa. Among his possessions, he had a goat that had broken its leg and couldn’t walk. He left it behind. Marpa said, “What’s the matter? You didn’t bring the other goat? I went through such terrible trouble to go to India three times to get these teachings, and this is a very precious initiation. You’ll have to go back and get the goat.” When Marpa gave the initiation of Chakrasamvara, Marpa’s wife Dagmeyma took pity on Milarepa and brought him in for the empowerment. Marpa took a big stick and chased Milarepa out while scolding him, and would not allow him to receive the initiation. Marpa’s wife kept asking Marpa to let Milarepa stay and receive the initiation.

Marpa finally agreed to give the initiation to Milarepa, because of the compassion that he had for his wife. The reason Milarepa met with such obstacles was that Marpa had achieved enlightenment by means of having undergone a tremendous amount of difficulty to study with Naropa in India, and Naropa had undergone a tremendous amount of difficulty and hardship to study with his teacher, Tilopa. Enlightenment doesn’t come easily. To reach the same attainments, Milarepa would have to undergo difficulties too.

Marpa said, “While Milarepa is serving me, I am always very wrathful and forceful with him. But, as a result of serving me, he will be able to achieve enlightenment in this very lifetime. Already he has done such difficult things as building the tower.” But Marpa did take pity on his wife, who was showing so much compassion for Milarepa, and he allowed him to receive the initiation. After the initiation, Milarepa had to go off and do a tremendous amount of meditation and practice in order to achieve enlightenment in his very lifetime. But, on the basis of his being a very faithful servant to Marpa, he was able to achieve enlightenment – but even then, still having to undergo the hardships of meditating in caves.

The Rarity of Opportunities to Meet with the Dharma

If we apply all of this to present times, there are many great countries in the world where the word Dharma is not even heard. There is not even a representation of the body, speech and mind of the Buddhas the size of a finger. Even if there are any, they are not treated as holy objects, and are not treated as precious. In these countries, everybody has been completely involved in trying to have things go well for this lifetime, and everybody has put all their energies into themselves. In this way, they fool themselves into thinking that this is the only thing in life. On that basis they have wanted to achieve great material progress, build roads and do all sorts of things. No matter how wonderful they make everything, no matter how much material progress they have, it only makes more and more problems, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. This is something that all of you know. The Buddha Shakyamuni himself was born into a royal family. He was the son of a king, and he had a tremendous amount of wealth. He saw that this had no essence at all, so he left it behind and, through all his hard efforts, achieved enlightenment.

All of you as well have seen that to just spend your entire life in the pursuit of material objects for the happiness of this life does not have any great essence or meaning. Because of that, you have turned to spiritual matters of the Dharma, and I think this is very good. As for what the spiritual matters involve, they are the various measures and practices that will benefit your future lives and beyond. The best methods for that were first taught in India, and then spread to Tibet.

It has happened that the conditions have become unbearable in Tibet, and it was no longer possible to practice Dharma there. We felt that to live a life without the spiritual practices of Dharma was not worth it, and so we left Tibet as refugees. We have come to countries like this, and here we meet with people like you who have great interest in the Dharma and spiritual matters, and who don’t know the Tibetan language. It is because of your great interest and great intentions to practice the Dharma that we explain to you as best as we can.

If you consider me as an example, in Tibet, I mostly studied with lamas and masters from the Gelug tradition. In fact, I have also received teachings from various lamas and masters from the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions as well. I’ve studied with fifty-three spiritual masters altogether. I am very concerned that the continuity of the Dharma teachings does not deteriorate and just disappear. You all have such interest in studying the Dharma. Therefore, I try to teach people like you with the feeling to try to be of benefit to you.

You have seen that there is no great essence to being involved only with things of this lifetime. You are all interested in learning these spiritual measures, and you don’t know the Tibetan language. It is very hard for you. I am becoming quite old, and if the Dharma is not taught, it will no longer be available. Therefore, even if I don’t know everything completely, I have tried to explain to you the sutra and tantra teachings as well as I could.

It is quite possible that you have doubts. You hear that it is proper to ask for teachings, to make a request over a period of three years. You know that it is customary to ask many times for an initiation before it is actually given and that is not proper for initiations to be given immediately upon first request. So, we might have a doubt about why teachings and initiations are given so readily at this time. In my own case, I think in terms of not wanting these teachings and lineages to disappear. Since you all have great interest and intentions to practice, and I myself am becoming old, I agree to give teachings and initiations when people ask, without making them wait a long time. I do this with the thought to benefit others.

The Meaning of Dharma and the Three Levels of Dharma Practice

What is the meaning of Dharma? Dharma is a preventive measure that will benefit one’s future lives and beyond. Whatever efforts you put into improving things for this lifetime — to have good food and drink and a nice house to live in — none of that can be considered a preventive measure (Dharma). Those are not spiritual practices. If you wish things to go well for you in this lifetime, and make an offering of a hundred thousand Dutch guilders in gold to an official to that end, it cannot be considered a preventive measure. The way you are thinking is that if you give a hundred thousand guilders of gold, you’ll get a million in return. That is doing business; that is not spiritual practice. If you just do a small act, like giving a piece of bread to an animal, with the intention that it will bring happiness for you in future lifetimes, this is in fact a preventive measure; this is a spiritual practice.

There are many different levels and scopes of preventive measures for improving future lives and beyond. If you are taking preventive measures to be happy yourself in future lifetimes, this is a modest-minded Hinayana practice. If you are taking preventive measures to bring about happiness for everybody in all future lives, this is a vast-minded Mahayana practice. The best thing, therefore, is to always work with the idea of trying to make things better and help all beings with limited minds, all sentient beings.

Everybody has a different idea of how to be happy, and everyone has a different method that they follow to achieve happiness. Likewise, there are many different methods of practicing in the pursuit of future lives. Among these, it is necessary to practice in a way in which you wish for happiness for everybody — for all limited beings without exception. The least type of motivation that you need to have is one in which you don’t wish to fall to any lower type of rebirth in future lives. For that, you learn the practices of giving up the ten destructive actions – the ten non-virtuous actions. Someone who is teaching the Dharma would start with explaining how to avoid destructive actions in order to avoid being reborn in worse states.

There are many different types of spiritual practices and religions, and all are aimed toward bringing about happiness, and alleviating or getting rid of problems, suffering and unhappiness. In Buddhism, there are three major methods involved. The first is the practice of avoiding the ten destructive actions in order to prevent being reborn in a worse state. Then there is following the three exceptional trainings in order to allow you to get out of all uncontrollably recurring problems — samsara. The third method of practice is to do all the different practices to achieve enlightenment to be able to benefit everyone. These are the three levels of practice.

Achieving Happiness

When I teach the Dharma, my intention is to be able to impart to you the various methods to achieve these goals. I don’t teach with the intention to make everybody Gelugpa by teaching Gelugpa Dharma. I am not teaching even with the idea that everybody has to become Buddhist. What I wish to explain or tell you about, since you don’t want to be unhappy, is that all of your problems and suffering come from acting negatively. And that if you stop acting negatively, you won’t have any more problems or suffering. If you want to become happy, because happiness is the result of acting constructively, you need to act constructively. That is what I have to tell you. Everybody is the same in that everybody wants to be happy, and nobody wants to be unhappy and have problems. Everybody wants the greatest happiness possible and one that will last forever.

As for being able to bring about a state of happiness that is long-lasting, that will continue on and on, and is the greatest level of happiness possible, it is only brought about by attaining the fully enlightened state of the Buddha. Attaining this state means to become totally clear-minded and fully evolved, and to achieve the highest level of all potentials. As for how to become a totally clear-minded and fully evolved Buddha in this very lifetime, the methods for doing so are explained in the teachings of tantra. These are the hidden measures to protect the mind. As for the type of person who could actually do such practices, we all have the basis for being able to do them. We have the basis of this human life.

Although we have the basis of a human mind and body, the best way to actually use it to become enlightened in our very lifetime is to do a type of practice like the great Milarepa did. He was totally involved in putting all of his energies, from the depth of his heart, into undergoing whatever difficulties were necessary to be enlightened. It is because we are not willing to make such a complete commitment, and we are not willing to undergo such tremendous hardships that we are not able to become clear-minded and fully evolved in our lifetimes. If we look at the example of Milarepa, he had to undergo tremendous difficulties and do an enormous amount of hard work before he was even given any instructions or teachings. After that, on the basis of practicing tantra, he was able to achieve his fullest potential and become a Buddha in his very lifetime. All of you are very fortunate, because in fact, His Holiness, a completely enlightened being, has been here in the West. He has given you initiations, and you have in fact had the fortune to be able to receive such initiations. That you have been fortunate enough to receive them indicates that you have had the fortune to be proper vessels to receive them.

Becoming Mindful of Death and Impermanence

If you ask where you actually start doing a Dharma practice, the first point is not to fool yourself by being totally involved with things of this lifetime. If you ask why we have been fooling ourselves into just working with things of this lifetime, the reason is that we have not been mindful of the fact that we are going to die. We have not been mindful of death or impermanence, the fact that no situation in life ever remains static or lasts forever. First, it is extremely important to think about and become mindful of death and impermanence.

If you could make death go away by not listening to anything about it, because you don’t like it, that would be very nice. But whether you like it or not, death is going to come to everybody. When it does come, you are going to have a lot of unhappiness, problems and suffering. It is just a matter of time, and there is no way to prevent it. What you can prevent is all the unhappiness and suffering when death actually does happen to you. If you follow a practice of trying to act as constructively and positively as possible, and to refrain from the ten negative actions as much as you can, and you live your life in this way, then as you become older you will become happier and happier. You will not be unhappy and in a terrible state of mind when you die. This is where the whole Dharma practice starts. Going further, there are all the various methods involved in the various sutra themes of practice and in the everlasting streams of tantra deity practice (tantras). In the next lectures, I will explain a little bit about the differences.

If you want to meditate, to build up a beneficial habit of mind, the first thing to think about is that having been born, there is nothing to do but to die at the end. This is the natural outcome of being born. You will build up a very beneficial state of mind if you become aware and mindful of the fact that, one day, you will die, and if you take that seriously. When you think about it seriously, the thing that comes to mind is that if I spend all my time just working to accumulate various objects and things during this lifetime, at the time of death these things are not going to be of any help. Out of all the objects that I have accumulated, there is nothing that I can take with me. That is something that you build up as a strong habit of mind.

A Precious Human Life

You will also build up a very good habit of mind if you try to rejoice in the fact that you have such a precious human life now. You need to think that it is a result of all the positive things that have been done in past lifetimes. You need to rejoice and feel very happy about what you have done in the past to produce this precious human life. On the basis of this human life, it is possible to take all the preventive measures of the Dharma that will allow us to be reborn in future lives in very happy states and conditions. We can do that now on the working basis that we have.

The best thing, of course, that we can do is to reach our fullest potential and become a totally clear-minded and fully evolved Buddha in our very lifetimes. This is something that we can do on the basis of this precious life that we have now. Therefore, it is very important to learn to appreciate your precious human life, and to rejoice and to feel happy about all the possibilities you have for making progress. You meditate, thinking that on the basis of the human life that you now have, you can actually prevent yourself from having to fall to worse states of rebirth in the future. In this way, you can actually prevent yourself from ever having to experience again the uncontrollably recurring problems and unhappiness of samsara. You can actually reach your fullest potential, achieve the state of enlightenment of a Buddha, and be able to benefit everyone. You meditate first to try to build up the beneficial habit of mind of being aware of all these possibilities and feeling happy about them.

Is my speaking like this helpful to you? Would you prefer me to teach in a different way?

Students: No.

If all of you know all of this already, I could explain to you in a different manner. But if this is something that you find beneficial, I can continue to explain like this. Even if you know all of this already, it is very important to hear and listen to teachings over and again. It is possible that you know all of this, and when you go to teachings you are aware that the teacher is explaining this now, and next he will explain this, and then he is going to use this example. But even if it is exactly the same words, a disciple can have a different understanding; the level of their understanding will change. When you listen to teachings, don’t listen just with the idea of being able to collect information, but rather you need to listen to it in order to actually put what you hear into practice. This is the main point.

The Pointlessness of Working for Accomplishments Only for This Lifetime

This is a story about Geshe Langri-tangpa (Glang-ri thang-pa). During his lifetime, he laughed only three times. In his mandala offering, he had a very large piece of turquoise. Once he saw five mice. One of them was on its back with the stone on its stomach, and the other four mice were dragging it along, each with one leg in their mouth. When he saw that, he laughed. After all, it is no great accomplishment to be able to get material objects. Even animals like mice are able to gather things.

The second time this great master laughed was when he saw someone who was to be executed the next day spending his last night mending his shoes. The third time was when he saw some people in a meadow collecting rocks to construct a fireplace. One of them saw what looked like a rock with grass on top of it and went to dig it out of the ground and actually it turned out to be the head of an ogre lying on the ground. As we can see, it is no great wonder to be able to accomplish things in this lifetime. It is a much greater accomplishment to be a person who is interested in spiritual practices that will benefit future lives and beyond.

When we have a precious human life with which we take such an interest, we need to feel very happy about it. In general, if we have a hundred thousand guilders in the bank, we feel very happy. But with that money, you cannot prevent yourselves from being reborn in a worse state of rebirth, and you cannot buy the state of enlightenment. On the basis of this precious human life, we can in fact reach the enlightened state of a Buddha. Therefore, we need to rejoice at what we have. The best thing, of course, is to follow the example of the great Milarepa and to give up all concern for this lifetime, and just devote ourselves single-pointedly to becoming enlightened in this lifetime. But it is very difficult for all Dharma practitioners to be like that. If we cannot do like Milarepa and completely give up all things of this lifetime, we can at least have an attitude of not being so involved in and concerned with things in this lifetime.

For instance, we can try to develop the attitude with which we see that there is no essence at all to various possessions that we have, because when we die, we won’t have them any more anyway. So, in a sense, they already belong to other people. If we think in this way, we are not grasping as tightly to what we have. We use what we have for spiritual practice, like giving to people who are needy.

Even if you have this attitude of not being so involved or caught up in things of this life, if, as a result of the positive things that you have done in past lifetimes you are born in circumstances in which you have possessions and material wealth, don’t just throw it all away and waste it. The other extreme would be to hold on tightly to what you have, and never being willing to part with anything. That is dangerous because if you are so possessive and hang on so tightly to what you have, you could be reborn as a clutching, hungry ghost. These are some of the things to consider in terms of how you go about a spiritual practice of Dharma.

The fact that we have had an opportunity to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is actually a real enlightened Buddha, and the fact that we have interest in spiritual matters is a result of having done a tremendous amount of hard positive work in previous lifetimes, which built up tremendous positive potential. Now on the basis of this precious human life, we need to work very hard to achieve a dedicated heart of bodhichitta, and to try to achieve the enlightened state of a Buddha. We have already put in so much hard work in past lifetimes to get this far and to have this precious human life, so we need to think about whether we want to have to do that all over again. Now that we have gone, this far we need to go all the way, and develop this dedicated heart of bodhichitta and actually achieve enlightenment. Since it is possible to achieve enlightenment on the basis of this life, it is important not to waste our lives.

If you had a piece of gold the size of your hand, you would not just throw it away. If you were to take this piece of gold and throw it in the river and then make prayers to get another piece of gold, it is going to be very difficult for that wish to come true. To not follow any spiritual practices in this lifetime, to waste our life, and then to pray to have another precious human lifetime in the future is exactly the same. If you ask, “What are the various types of preventive measures that I can actually take?” there are many things that can be done. Let me explain some of these.

Refraining from Taking the Life of Others

The first thing is in terms of the actions of your body. Don’t take the life of any creature. In order to actually kill someone, four things need to be complete. The basis of the act of killing might be, for example, a sheep. The intention or thought involves both a motivation and the recognition. You can kill out of three different types of motivation: out of desire, out of anger and hatred, or out of ignorance. The way you kill out of desire is for example, by slaughtering an animal out of desire for eating meat. Or you become angry and hate something so much that you go out and kill it. The way that you can kill out of naivety and closed-minded ignorance is out of just not knowing any better. There are people who sacrifice many animals to make offerings of blood to some gods; likewise, some people feel that when they are sick if they go out and sacrifice an animal, it will cure them of their sickness. As for the recognition, if you have the intention to kill a sheep and there are two animals there, one is a goat and one is a sheep, for the act to be complete, you need to kill the sheep, not the goat.

As for the actual action involved in killing, some people kill animals by smothering them, by putting something over their mouth and nose so they can’t breathe. Others stick their hand in and pull out all the insides. There are others who cut the throats of the animals. For the action of killing the sheep to actually be completed, it has to lose its life; its life has to come to an end.

There are four types of results. The first type of result that follows is the ripened result. The ripened result of killing is a rebirth either as a hell being, as a ghost, or as an animal. Even when that rebirth comes to an end and you are reborn as a human being again, the results from that previous action are still not finished. There are further results that are similar to their cause in terms of what we experience. As a result of shortening and taking the life of someone else, you yourself will have a very short life that will be filled with sickness. There is also a result that is similar to its cause in terms of instinctive behavior. As a result of killing, when you are reborn as a human, even from childhood you will be a very sadistic person who always enjoys killing creatures. Then there is a comprehensive result, which involves a whole area or group of people getting killed. In the area in which you are born everything has a very low ability to sustain life. The food is very poor and weak; the medicine is not very effective or powerful, etc.

If you see all these disadvantages and shortcomings that follow from killing, and as a result you decide to not kill, then to restrain yourself from killing, that is a constructive action. The result of a constructive positive action is that you are reborn as a human or a god. A result that corresponds to its cause in your experience is that, having been reborn as a human, you yourself will have a long life and good health, free from sickness. Since everybody wants to have a long life and not be sick, and nobody likes to die young and to have any illnesses, the thing to bring that about is to always to refrain from killing. The result that corresponds to its cause in our behavior would be, even as a small child, to always be horrified by killing. You never would kill, and you would even be repulsed at the thought of eating meat. The comprehensive results are that in the area in which you are born, the food will be very rich and nutritious and the medicines will be very potent and effective. If, by just restraining once from killing, it has one positive set of effects like this, then if you actually promise that you will never kill again, it will bring effects continuously, even while you are asleep. It will be a constructive action all the time.

The Buddha Shakyamuni had many great disciples — great listeners to the teachings, shravakas — and each of them had a specialty. Some had the specialty of miraculous powers, others of wisdom, and so on. The one who had the great specialty of being able to tame the minds of people in the uncivilized border areas was the highly realized arya being, Katyayana (Ka-tya’i bu). Once, when Katyayana was out begging for alms, he went to the house of a butcher. He explained all the shortcomings and disadvantages that come from slaughtering animals and the butcher said to him, “I can’t promise to stop slaughtering animals during the day, but I will promise to never kill an animal at night.” And he did that.

Some time after that, there was another highly realized being called Sangharakshita (dGe-‘dun ‘tsho). In those days, there were many people who used to go out on the ocean to try to find great treasures. They did not have great ships that we have now. They just had sailboats. It was the custom to invite a spiritual person to be like a chaplain on the ship, so they invited this highly realized being, Sangharakshita. They lost their way, and ended up in a strange distant land. Sangharakshita went out and came to a very beautiful house. At night, everything was beautiful. There was a great deal to eat and drink, and everything was very comfortable. The owner of the house said, “Please don’t stay here until the sun rises in the morning.” He explained that during the daytime, as soon as the sun rose, the animals would come. They all attacked him. Some bit him, some kicked him, and others gored him with their horns. It was just terrible. But at night, everything became peaceful and quiet as soon as the sun set. “So please go away when the sun rises, but come back again as soon as it gets dark.”

Later, Sangharakshita returned and met the Buddha Shakyamuni and explained what he had seen. The Buddha explained that the person in this house was the rebirth of the butcher who had taken a vow not to kill at night, but continued to kill during the day. Because of not killing at night, everything was very lovely at night. But because he continued to kill animals during the day, animals always attacked him.

In terms of what you kill, there is a difference in the type of negative potential that is built up according to the size of the creature. It is much worse to kill a human being than an insect. If you kill an arhat, someone who is a completely liberated being, or you kill your mother or your father, this is what is known as a heinous crime, and is the most serious type of killing that you can do. For instance, you might kill a tiny louse. Even though it is a small unwholesome act, if you kill it today and you don’t admit that what you have done is wrong and don’t try to purify yourself, the negative potential builds up, and by tomorrow, it’s as if you had killed two. If you leave it for another day, the negative potential is the same as if you had killed four. It continues to increase like that, becoming twice as much each day. If you let it go for one year, the negative potential of having killed one small louse is very great.

The result of having crushed an insect between your fingers is being reborn in a joyless realm, a hell in which you have a very large body, and you are smashed between two large mountains. This is something that you see as well in the human realm. There are people who fall off of rocks and cliffs and are smashed on the rocks below, or people whose houses collapse on top of them. This is likewise the result of a similar type of action of crushing a creature in their previous lives. If you consider all the horrible things that happen, all the disadvantages and shortcomings that follow from killing, and you promise never to take the life of any living creature again, it is very beneficial. When you are walking and you see that there are many insects on the ground, you need to try to avoid stepping on them. If, while you are walking, you accidentally step on small insects that you were unaware of, it is unintentional. Therefore, it is not a similar type of negative action.

It is very important to see the disadvantages that come from killing, and to promise not to kill again. By making such a promise you will be able to live a long life, and have good health and freedom from sickness. If you are practicing as a bodhisattva, as a dedicated being, you have an extremely broad, vast mind and aim. We can look at the examples of the previous lives of the Buddha when he himself was a bodhisattva.

Once, there were five hundred passengers on a boat, who were bringing back great treasures of pearls and other precious things. Among them was one criminal called Minag Dungdung (Mi-nag gDung-gdung). The Buddha was at that time a very strong oarsman. He saw that Minag was going to murder the other four hundred and ninety-nine passengers, steal their treasures and commandeer the boat. Buddha felt great compassion at how terrible this would be for all the victims. Not only that, it would be terrible for the criminal himself because, as a result of killing four hundred and ninety-nine people, he would build up such a terrible negative potential, he would be reborn in a unbelievably bad situation. As a dedicated bodhisattva, Buddha saw that the only thing that would help was for he himself to kill Minag Dungdung. He realized that if he did, the four hundred ninety-nine people would not lose their lives and he would prevent Minag from building up such terrible negative potential. He thought, “If I kill this criminal, then I will build up the negative potential of having to kill one person, but that is alright. It does not matter that I am going to have to experience very bad suffering and consequences from this. It is worth it to alleviate all the suffering of the other people involved.” With this very courageous thought, he killed Minag Dungdung. If you are a bodhisattva, then in such situations killing is called for. But if you are not on that level yourself, then it is not at all proper to kill.

You could kill someone yourself, or get someone else to do the killing for you, which also builds up a very negative potential for you. In fact, it is much worse. It creates a double amount of negative potential because not only do you build up the negative potential of causing somebody else to kill, but the other person as well builds up negative potential by actually carrying out the act for you. If you go into a battle as part of an army of five hundred soldiers, and you have a strong feeling in your mind that we are going to go out there and slaughter the enemy, then even if you yourself don’t kill anyone, you build up negative potential as if you had personally killed however many people the army kills. Even if one person in that group of five hundred were to kill a thousand people, you would build up the potential of having killed a thousand people yourself.

When you are in a group of soldiers, there is what is called a “vowed non-restraint.” In other words, one makes a very definite decision to not restrain at all from killing, to just go out and completely destroy everything that comes in one’s way. That builds up an even greater negative potential. If someone takes that type of pledge or vow, they continue to build up a negative potential even while they sleep. On the other hand, even if you are a soldier by name, if you have no thought at all ever to kill anyone, there is no fault. So even if you are a soldier, if you realize that it is very bad to kill, have no intentions to kill, and promise not to, there is no fault at all. If someone is going to kill a large number of people, and there is no way to stop him except by killing him, then to do so with a pure motivation, like in the example of the previous life of the Buddha, is a positive action, although it builds up the negative potential of killing.

These are some of the things involved with refraining from killing. If you promise not to kill, it will be very positive. Sometimes, there are annoying insects like mosquitoes, which might give you malaria, etc. There are sprays and chemicals that you could put out to kill them. When you put such chemicals out when there are no insects in the house to prevent them from coming, there is no fault involved. But if you do that while the house is infested with insects, there is the fault of killing. There are many points of practice in terms of how to refrain from killing.

Refraining from Stealing

The second point is not to be a thief, not to steal. The object involved, the basis, must be an object that belongs to someone else. The motivation can be desire or anger. As we described before, you might steal from someone because you have great desire for an object, or because you are very angry with someone. The action of theft is completed when you have the attitude of feeling that now what I have taken is mine. The results that follow are rebirths as a hell creature or a hungry ghost. Even when you are reborn as a human being, you can be reborn as someone who is completely poor, and who has no possessions at all. Or whenever you get something, it is always stolen from you. This would be the result corresponding to its cause in terms of what you experience. As for results that correspond to their cause in terms of instinctive behavior: there are children who instinctively go out and steal even if they are reborn in a rich family. A comprehensive result is being reborn in a very poor area or country where everyone has nothing. The result of always refraining from stealing, on the other hand, is being born as someone who is very wealthy in a very rich country.

At this point, I can give an example from the life of the great Geshe Pen Kungyel, (‘Phen rKun-rgyal), the great bandit from Penpo. Have you heard the accounts of his life? Who has heard them? Who did you hear them from? If you will excuse me, I will explain them again for people who have not heard them before. I tell these accounts because it is very helpful for your mind. It illustrates a great point and it is not just a fairy tale or a made-up story.

Pen Kungyel means “bandit king from Penpo.” He was a notorious thief. He lived in a house with forty acres of land that he used to farm. He also went out to hunt and kill animals and fish and steal. Once, on the high mountain pass between his home and Lhasa, he met a traveler on a horse. This traveler, not recognizing whom he was speaking with, asked, “That bandit Pen Kungyel isn’t around anyplace is he?” When Pen said, “I am Pen Kungyel,” the traveler became so frightened that he fell off his horse and fell down the mountain. Pen was so upset that just hearing his name had the power to cause someone to fall off the mountain that he decided that from then on he would never rob again.

After that, he practiced the Dharma. He tried to restrain himself from doing the ten destructive actions, and to always follow the ten constructive ones. Every time he did something constructive, he would draw a white line on a piece of rock. If he did something negative or destructive, he would draw a black line. At the beginning, he would get very few white marks and very many black ones. Eventually, he had less black marks and more white ones. At night, if he had more black marks, he would take his right hand into his left and say, “You bandit king from Penpo! You are a terrible person! In the past you were such a terrible thief and now you are continuing to be a horrible person!” He would give himself a very bad scolding. If he had more white marks at the end of the day, he would take his left hand in his right, shake his hand and congratulate himself. He would call himself by his Dharma name, Tsultrim Gyalwa (“The one who is victorious with ethical self-discipline”) and say, “Now you really are becoming a positive person,” and he would congratulate himself.

Eventually he became quite well known as a great Dharma practitioner. Once, a patron invited him to her house for a meal. When the patron went outside, then because he had such strong instincts to steal, he put his hand in a basket where she kept tea and started to help himself. He caught himself, grabbed his hand with his other hand and shouted, “Hey mama, come quick, I’ve caught a thief!”

Another time he was invited with many other Dharma practitioners to someone’s house where they were all being served yogurt. He was sitting in the back and watching as the patron poured out very large portions of yogurt for the people up front. He started to get worried and upset that there would not be any left by the time it got back to him. He sat there with negative thoughts, watching the yogurt being poured out. By the time the person reached him, he realized what kind of mind he had, so he turned his bowl upside down and said, “No, thank you, I’ve already eaten all my yogurt watching the others.”

Another time, a patron of his was going to come and visit his house. He got up very early that morning, cleaned his room very well and arranged a beautiful altar with flowers and all sorts of incense. Then he sat down and honestly examined his motivation for what he had just done. He realized that he went through so much trouble to set up a beautiful altar simply because his patron was coming and he wanted to impress her. He went outside and picked up a handful of ashes, went back inside and threw ashes over everything. He said, “Before, when I was a thief and worked so hard, my mouth often could not find enough food to feed it. Now having become a Dharma practitioner, so many people come and make offerings to me that the food cannot find enough of a mouth in me to get inside.”

If you think about all the points illustrated by Geshe Pen Kungyel’s life, it gives you much to think about and much indication of the way to actually practice. You cannot just immediately stop yourself from being a negative person and acting so destructively. You have to approach it gradually.

If you practice to the best of your ability, you become more of a positive and constructive person. Then, at the time of your death, you won’t have any problems, unhappiness or suffering. Everybody has to die. You are not the only person who is faced with this situation. If you die having worked all your life to become a better person, then you will feel, “I don’t really have any regrets about the life that I led. I did my best and I worked my hardest to be positive.” Then you can pass away without feeling horrible. That would be very good.

Refraining from Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

We have dealt with the first two destructive actions of body. The third type of destructive physical action is inappropriate sexual behavior. An example is a married man taking another woman as a sexual partner. As a result, when you are reborn as a human being again, your wife will be unfaithful and have many affairs behind your back. Furthermore, when you look at insects born in latrines or in very filthy areas with a lot of refuse, like flies and maggots, it is mostly the result of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The great realized being Katyayana once met someone who was always engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior and having affairs. He promised that he would not do anything like this during the day, but that he could not help himself or stop indulging in such behavior at night. So he took a vow to just stop during the day. Later, the realized being Sangharakshita came across a household with someone who was very happy during the daytime, but at night the situation just became horrible and unbearable. He had awful problems. Sangharakshita asked the Buddha about this and the Buddha explained that it was the result of this person’s promising not to indulge in inappropriate sexual behavior during the day, but not refraining from doing so at night.

Refraining from Lying

Turning to speech: If you lie and say what is untrue then this as well builds up a negative potential. A lie is to say, for example, that something that is the case is not the case, that something that is not the case is the case, or to say that someone does not have something when they do, and vice-versa. The result of lying would be to become like those we see in this lifetime to whom everybody always lies — they are always being tricked and deceived. As a result of refraining from lying, you are reborn in a country where everybody is honest and you are never cheated by anybody. Nobody ever lies to you.

At the time of the Buddha, there was a person by the name of Kyewo-sudey (sKye-bo bsu-bde). As a result of never lying, every time he laughed a pearl would fall from his mouth. Everybody used to tell him jokes to try to make him laugh, but he very rarely would. One day, a monk pompously wearing yellow monks’ robes and holding a monks’ staff went to the court of the king of the area. The king led him around to have a look at the palace. There were many pieces of gold lying all around, sometimes in big piles. The monk put some sticky honey on the bottom of his monks’ staff. As he went around, he put his staff down on top of the gold coins and the gold would stick to the bottom of his staff. When he went outside of the palace, a piece of fluff, like a bird’s feather, was stuck on his monks’ robe. He thought that it didn’t make him look very nice, so he plucked it off his robe and blew it away. Kyewo- sudey saw this pompous monk walking out of the palace having gold coins stuck onto the bottom of his monks’ staff, but pulling a little piece of white fluff from his robe and blowing it away, because he was concerned about how he looked, and he laughed. It was only occasions like this that would make this Sudey burst out laughing.

The queen of this land had very loose sexual morality. She would go to the room in the palace where the servant who took care of the royal horses stayed. One day, she did something that this servant didn’t like and the servant slapped the queen in the face. But the queen thought nothing of it. At another time, the king took the ring off his finger and playfully threw it at his queen. It hit her gently and she started to cry. Sudey saw this and burst out laughing. If you refrain from lying, it is possible to have this type of result as well; every time you laugh, a pearl will fall from your mouth. These types of results will follow.

Refraining from Using Divisive Language

The result of using divisive language is like you see in some families. The members are always fighting and arguing with each other; the parents and children don’t get on at all together. This is all a result of having used divisive language and saying things that caused people to be distant from each other. Likewise, if you are in an area in which things are very rough and difficult, where the landscape is uneven and very difficult terrain, this as well is a result of divisive language. As a result of refraining from using divisive language, you are reborn in a place that is very flat, even and beautiful, and you yourself have very harmonious relations with everyone.

Day Two: Karma and Refuge

Continuation of Refraining from Using Divisive Language

Yesterday, we were speaking about the fifth destructive action, which is using divisive language. We have already covered the three destructive actions of body and the first of speech. We were discussing the second destructive action of speech, using divisive language.

The basis for divisive language is a group of individuals who are either harmonious or not harmonious. The reason there are two bases is because you could cause a group of harmonious individuals to be separated, and likewise, a group that is already not harmonious could become even worse. The intention involved includes a motivation, a disturbing attitude, and recognition. The recognition is the actual correct perception of the status among the various people that you are speaking to. The disturbing attitude could be attachment, anger, or closed-minded ignorance. The motivation would be to cause people who are not harmonious to not be able to get together, or to cause people who are harmonious to part.

The action could be any type of speech, whether it is true or not. You could either say nice words or something nasty. There are many methods involved. The conclusion of the act is when you have actually caused a big division among them; when there is a big separation or gap between them.

Refraining from Harsh Speech

The next destructive action of speech is using harsh and abusive language, saying cruel things. This as well involves a basis, an intention, an action, and a conclusion. The basis is a person who has hurt you or has hurt a friend or relative of yours, and who you feel will hurt them again in the future. So you are very angry with them. The intention involved is the motivation to actually say something harsh. The words involved could either be true or not. It could involve any type of harsh words. For instance, to call a physically handicapped person a “cripple” would be a true statement, but it is cruel. To call someone who is not physically handicapped a “cripple” is an example of harsh speech that is false. It could involve both pleasant and unpleasant words. You could call somebody a dwarf, and make fun of him or her. You could say to someone who is dark-skinned, with pleasant sounding words, sarcastically, “ How light skinned you are!” Or you could make fun of a poor person by saying how rich they are. If someone is not a Buddha, you could sarcastically call him or her a Buddha. That is a cruel way of speaking to someone using pleasant-sounding words. The act is completed when the other person actually understands what you say.

Refraining from Idle Chatter

The next destructive action of speech is idle chatter, to just say meaningless things. It also involves a basis, intention, action, and conclusion. The basis would be any type of meaningless and pointless speech. The rest of it is similar to what we have just discussed, except for the conclusion. No one actually has to understand what you’ve said. Just to actually say something stupid, something meaningless, completes the action. For instance, to read meaningless fiction out loud would come under the category of idle chatter where it is done for no purpose at all.

Refraining from Covetous Thoughts

The next types of destructive actions are mental. The first is covetous thoughts, thoughts with which we wish to possess what other people have. The object is any possession belonging to somebody else, their money, their wealth, their material things, their house, etc. It could be anything. The type of thought is to look at these things and to wish that you could have that too. The action is completed when you actually decide to do something to try to get what this other person has.

Refraining from Thoughts of Malice

The ninth destructive action is to have thoughts of malice or wishing harm to others. The basis involved is the same as in harsh and abusive language. Namely, somebody who had hurt you or your relative or friend, who you felt would hurt them again, and who you are angry with. The motivation would be the feeling that you want to punch or hit the other person, or hurt them in some way. The action is completed on a mental level, when you actually make the full decision to act out the thought of malice. “I am going to go up to this person and punch them in the face,” or “I can’t stand it if I don’t smash this person.”

Refraining from Thinking with a Distorted View

As for thinking with a distorted view, the basis involved has to be something that is so. It is to deny something that is true. For instance, to insist that there are no future lives when it is the case that there are future lives, or to insist that there is no such thing as a relation between cause and effect, or to insist that happiness does not follow from acting positively and constructively. All of these would be examples of thinking with a distorted view, of denying what is true.

Impulses (Karma) and Pathways for Impulses (Karmic Paths)

There are various points that you can investigate further. All seven of the seven destructive actions of body and speech are a type of impulse, as well as the pathway for that impulse. Whereas the three types of mental destructive action are pathways for that impulse, but they themselves are not impulses. The actual definition of karma is an impulse to do something. The impulse itself is a secondary mental attitude, and not actually a pathway of an impulse. This is a technical differentiation, which can be analyzed further.

In the future when you have a skilled Geshe here, this is a good thing to ask about. To ask various other types of questions about things in the sky or whatever is not very profound. If you do a practice and recite mantras and so on, after a while the answer to questions like these will become very clear to you without having to actually ask learned persons. In terms of asking about the moon and so on, the answers become clear on the basis of reading and studying the texts. I am just explaining little things to the side here. There is not enough time to go into detail on all these matters.

The Heaviness of Actions

There is also the difference in the heaviness or lightness of actions. When someone who is accustomed to doing destructive things all the time, for instance a slaughterer, even does a small destructive action it is very heavy. For instance, by its nature, idle chatter is the lightest of all ten destructive actions, but as we engage in it all the time, because of its frequency it becomes quite heavy. For instance, even if you have a great number of very thin sheets of paper they become very heavy. Furthermore, if you do an action with a very strong intention, it becomes heavier. Likewise, if you do a negative or destructive action, and you don’t feel any regret or don’t apply any of the other four forces to purify yourself, the negative potential you build up is quite heavy.

The positive potentials that can be built up by acting constructively can also be very heavy or weak. If you don’t become angry, then the positive potential remains strong. If the object of your positive action is a spiritual master, your parents, or the Three Jewels, the positive potential becomes very heavy. Likewise, if you do something negative or destructive toward them, the negative potential built up is very heavy.

When we think of these points, what we need to do is to decide to do all the strongest and heaviest types of positive, constructive actions, and to avoid the heaviest negative ones. If you had the same amount of lead and gold, you would want add to the gold and not the lead. Likewise, in terms of these positive and negative potentials, if you have two amounts that are equally heavy, you would want to keep the positive potential and leave behind the negative.

In terms of the presentation of the three negative actions of body and the four of speech, the first of these actions are heaviest. The ones that follow are lighter by nature. Since everyone cherishes their life the most, to kill is the heaviest of the destructive actions of body, whereas to just deprive someone of their possessions by stealing is less heavy, and to commit sexual misconduct with them would be the lightest of these three. The same is true for the destructive actions of speech. The heaviest is lying and then using divisive language; using harsh language and idle chatter are progressively lighter. It is just the opposite with the destructive actions of mind. The first ones are lighter and the latter ones heavier. Of the three, having covetous thoughts is the lightest, then having thoughts of malice would be heavier, and thinking with distorted views would be the heaviest.

It is extremely important to restrain yourself from committing any of the ten destructive actions, and to try to practice the ten constructive ones. In the past, there was one very skilled and learned Geshe from Mongolia. He was a very precious master who became the abbot of one of the tantric colleges. I myself received teachings from him. Once a nobleman came and asked this great master about voidness. The master said, “Forget about voidness, you need to stop being such a thief.” This was because he was aware that this nobleman was robbing. Some members of the aristocracy may occasionally make offerings to the members of monasteries, but they also often get their money by exploiting the public and keep most of it for themselves.

Now we have discussed the heaviness and lightness of various actions.

The Results of Actions

The ripened result that follows from all these destructive actions is the same, a rebirth in one of the worst states as a hell creature, a ghost, or an animal. There are two types of results corresponding to their cause. There are those that correspond to the cause in terms of your experience, and those that correspond to the cause in terms of your instinctive behavior. This was discussed yesterday in terms of killing. The result that corresponds to its cause in your experience would be that you yourself would have short life filled with sickness.

The result of using harsh and abusive language is that other people always yell and say nasty things to you, and you always have to hear nasty language. The result of idle chatter is that no one will listen to what you have to say. No one will pay attention to you, or take your words seriously. If people always do listen to what you say, it is the result of having abandoned idle chatter. If you have strong covetous thoughts, the result will be that you will be a person of great attachments and desires. As a result of thoughts of malice, you will be a very hostile and angry person. The result of having distorted thoughts is that you will be a very closed-minded and ignorant person.

The result that corresponds to its cause in terms of your instinctive behavior for each of these destructive actions is that from childhood you will be instinctively drawn to repeat these actions. As we explained yesterday, the comprehensive result of not killing is that the land in which you are born will be one in which the food will be very rich and powerful. Likewise, the medicines will be very effective. The comprehensive result of stealing, of taking what is not given, is that in the land where you are born the crops will be very poor. There will be a very small yield, there will be very little rain, and a great deal of dust and so on. The result of improper sexual conduct is that the country where you are born is very dirty and filthy, a place where there is refuse and filth all around.

The result of lying is that when you plant fields, for instance, nothing results in the way you had planned. The result of divisive language is that in the country where you are born, the land will be very uneven; there will be deep ravines and gorges. It will be very difficult to go anywhere. From using harsh and abusive language, the country will have many thorns and rocks and the environment will be very harsh. As a result of idle chatter, the crops will be crazy. You will get crops at the wrong time of year, or nothing will grow at the proper time of year.

The comprehensive result of having covetous thoughts is that everything in the country quickly starts to break down, whatever nice things you have just fall apart. The comprehensive result of malice is that the country will have much disease and plagues. The great Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, predicted that in the future many new diseases would come that had no previous names and that there would be no medicines or cures for them, and this would be because of strong thoughts of malice and hatred. We find this to be true. Many modern diseases are affecting mankind. The comprehensive result of distorted views is that the resources of a country will become depleted. A country might have had very good water, trees, mines, wealth, oil and so on, and but all of this runs out.

The comprehensive results of the constructive actions would be the opposite of these. From not killing, the country will have medicines that are very strong and effective, and very rich and nutritious food. You can figure out the rest of the comprehensive results of the constructive actions by just taking the opposite of the comprehensive results of the destructive actions.

The Strength of Potentials

Also, there is a difference in the strength of the potentials built up by actions according to four different parameters of factors. There is the field, which refers to the person who is the object of the action; the basis, which refers to the situation of the person committing the action; the item involved in the action; and then the state of mind involved.

In terms of the first of these, the field for the action, actions become very strong when they are aimed at the Three Jewels and at spiritual masters. They also become very strong when they are aimed at those who are similar to spiritual masters or lamas, and that refers to people who tell you what is positive and what is negative. Any person who gives you sound advice is like a spiritual master or lama. Likewise, parents are a very powerful field for actions, because no matter what type of action you do directly toward them, whether positive or negative, it becomes very strong. Even if you only help such people in a small way, still it builds up a very strong positive potential. Even if you only do something a little bit negative and destructive toward them, it builds up a very great negative potential.

In terms of the basis, if someone has taken vows, then their actions become very strong. On the basis of having the vows of a layperson, a novice, or a fully ordained monk or nun, their positive and negative actions become stronger. Especially if you do some sort of constructive action on the basis of a dedicated heart of bodhichitta, a heart dedicated to others and to achieving enlightenment, that action becomes extremely strong and potent. If you start the day by thinking, “How wonderful it is that I did not die during the night. Now that I am awake, this morning I am going to dedicate my heart to others and to achieving enlightenment. I am going to be as positive and constructive as possible,” then whatever you do all day will be carried by the force of your strong intention, even if you don’t remain mindful of it all day. So it is important to start the day with a very positive intention like that. Potentials become strong in terms of their intention.

That last example was an example of the fourth point. To go back now, an example of the third point, the item involved, is as follows: In terms of being generous, if you give others teachings and spiritual measures, it is much stronger than just giving them something material. The fourth point, about the strength being determined by the state of mind involved, was just mentioned. For instance, if you just make an offering of one flower with the aim of benefiting an infinite number of beings, the positive potential built up becomes proportionately vast. It is important, then, to set a very strong positive intention at the beginning of whatever you do. Namely, it is very important at the beginning of each action to have a heart of bodhichitta, and the wish that what you do be of benefit to all living beings. At the end of the day, likewise it is very important to actually dedicate the positive potential that you’ve built up during the day, by offering it for the achievement of enlightenment in order to be able to benefit everyone.

In this way, the intention that you set in the morning and the dedication that you give at night are extremely important. If before you go to sleep, you set the intention to be very positive and constructive, and to try to work as much as possible for the benefit of others the next day, the entire night will be very positive since it will be carried on with this strong intention. If you pass your days and nights in this positive and constructive way, you will actually be able to complete the path of spiritual training and live a full life.

The Eight Ripened Good Qualities of a Precious Human Life

When you think about safeguarding yourself from committing these ten destructive actions, you need to consider the fact that you have achieved this precious human life now, as the result of having safeguarding these constructive actions in the past. In order to be able to achieve enlightenment in the most efficient and easy way, it is necessary to have a human basis, a human body, which has complete eight ripened good qualities. These are to have a long life; to have a pleasing physical appearance; to have a very good family background or caste into which you are born; to be wealthy; to have very credible speech, so that what you say is believable; to be very powerful and influential; and to have very strong physical body, great stamina and a very strong mind or great willpower. The final one is, being a man, because between being male or female, often the circumstances are such that men have an easier time devoting themselves to Dharma practice – at least traditionally that was so.

Each of these has a function. With a long life, you will actually be able to complete all your studies and practices. If you are good-looking, others will be attracted to you, and will come and listen to what you have to say. If you are someone from a royal family, then others will naturally listen to what you say; they will follow your suggestions. If you have great wealth, others will be attracted to you, and you will have the resources and ability to do a great many positive things. If you have credibility of speech, others will listen to what you say and believe you. If you are very influential and powerful, then others will follow, and accept what you say. If you are reborn as a man, then you have less interferences and hindrances in your practice. If you are very strong, then you have the ability to do great tasks, like Milarepa building his nine-story tower.

Each of these good qualities has a cause. The cause of having a long life is to refrain from killing, saving the lives of creatures, nursing the sick and giving medicine to those who are in need. The cause for being born good-looking is to offer butter lamps to the Three Jewels, to offer clothing, jewelry and ornaments to others, and not to be angry or jealous. The cause for being reborn in a good family or social class is to always be respectful of spiritual masters and parents, as well as those who are very learned and have great qualities. Another cause is to not be pompous, but to be humble and respectful. The cause for being wealthy is to give whatever is needed, food, clothing, money and so on, to those who are in need, even if people do not ask. The cause for having credibility of speech is to not commit the destructive actions of speech: lying, harsh language, divisive speech, or idle chatter. The cause for being very influential and powerful is to have made prayers to the Triple Gem, specifically to have all good qualities and to be influential. The cause for being reborn as a man is to not castrate animals, to rejoice in the strength and abilities that men have for uninterrupted practice, and to recite of the names and praises of the bodhisattvas like Manjushri and Maitreya. The cause for having very great physical and mental strength is to accomplish actions that others are not able to do or feel they cannot do.

It is important to try to offer prayers to be reborn with a human life that has all of these qualities complete, and to do the various types of positive and constructive actions that will bring them about. It is also important to use such a body and such a life in a constructive manner if you have one, because if you use your life to be a destructive and negative person, it becomes even worse. It is important to have a full and complete prayer to gain the type of human life that you can then use for positive purposes. If you wish to do a meditation to build up good habits of mind, think about all the various qualities that you have, and rejoice and feel happy about them. And take the essence of this life and make a life with all these opportunities meaningful. Do not waste it; use it to benefit future lives. When you get that type of realization, it is the initial level of motivation.

The fact that all of you are here means that you have realized that just to spend all of your time working is not enough. You have taken time out to come here and listen to spiritual teachings. This is an indication that you have already had a small type of realization. To come here at all is based on realizing something. Don’t think that realization or insight means you will be able to fly through the air, or be able to leave your footprint in a rock. If that were so, then people like myself who have been practicing for more than sixty years would all have those types of powers. Don’t think that there is any great wonder in being able to do these types of things either. There are people who do the various meditations on the energy-winds and breathing exercises who can levitate and are able to move through the air. To do that is no big deal. To actually refrain from doing any of the ten destructive actions is a much more difficult accomplishment.

The Necessity of Refraining from Destructive Actions as Preparation for Tantra

When Atisha was invited to Tibet, the spiritual king Jangchub-wo (Byang-chub ‘od) requested him to teach about cause and effect. The King said, “Please don’t give us a very deep and complicated teaching on tantra.” This pleased Atisha very much. To actually meet with the tantric teachings and to receive initiations and so on does in fact plant very good instincts and seeds. It is a very constructive thing to do if you have the opportunity. It is very fortunate to be able to do that. The way to approach it is, however, is to do the practices of the initial level very well in terms of refraining from the various types of destructive actions. Then on that basis, go on to the more vast levels of motivation, and eventually develop a dedicated heart of bodhichitta — a heart that is completely involved with others, and to achieve enlightenment to be able to help them. If, on that basis, you enter into the practice of tantra, it becomes a speedy and effective method for reaching enlightenment.

Tantras, the hidden measures to protect the mind, are a vehicle of practice that deals with the results. The sutra teachings, the usual themes of practice, involve causes. You can’t really approach a vehicle that deals with the results unless you have already explained the vehicle that deals with the causes; you cannot get results without causes. If you start on the basis of the vehicle that deals with causes, and then go on the vehicle that deals with the results, this diamond-strong vehicle of tantra becomes a very speedy and effective vehicle for achieving enlightenment.

If you hear that these tantric methods are a very speedy path for achieving enlightenment, and you just want to take an empowerment and practice it immediately, it will be difficult to get anywhere with it. For instance, although an airplane flies very quickly through the sky, you can’t get on the airplane in mid-flight. The only way to get on the speedy airplane is to go through all the preliminary steps of getting your ticket, going through customs, going on the moving sidewalks in the airport, the steps, the little shuttle, going up the stairs up the plane, etc. You approach it in this gradual fashion. If you want to get onto a speedy vehicle to enlightenment, it is important to go through these first steps to get onto this fast vehicle. Namely, it is important to refrain from committing the ten destructive actions. From there you’ll have a steady and firm approach to the speedy vehicle.

Even if these representations of Manjushri, Chenrezig and Maitreya were to come alive and speak to you, this is the type of teachings that they would give to you. If you have already trained yourself and practiced very well, all these very deep and profound instructions would be ready to be given out. If you don’t start out on the basis of learning about how to refrain from acting destructively, not only are you not going to able to get teachings from Manjushri and Maitreya, we won’t even be able to see them or have proper visions of them. If you do actually practice these very well, there will come a time when you actually will meet these various great beings directly, face to face.

There were a set of three brothers, who were the disciples of Atisha and his disciple Dromtonpa (‘ Brom-ston-pa). One of these three was called Puchungwa (Phu-chung-ba). He always did very intensive meditation practice. He practiced very intensely for nine years, giving up normal human food. He lived up in the mountains gathering the droppings from herds of animals. The droppings contained undigested tsampa (barley grain). He would cook this up and make a soup. Once he came down from this intensive practice to go to Lhasa to see the very great and famous statues in the main temples. While he was coming into town, he saw the Twenty-one Taras coming along with him. He said to them, “I am a monk and it really does not look very nice for all you women to come into town with me.” They told him, “You don’t have to worry. Nobody else can see us.” When he went into Lhasa and saw all the great statues in the temples, they actually spoke to him.

When he first went up to his mountain retreat, he would roll together the grasses that grew in the meadows, and burn these as an incense offering. Having made such pure-hearted offerings in the earlier part of his life, later in his life he was able to make offerings of incense of very precious medicinal substances. One stick of incense would be worth about six hundred dollars.

Working up to, and Doing Actions

There are various classifications concerning karma or behavior. Certain actions are worked up to and then actually done; some are not built up to, but actually done; some are built up to and not done; and some are neither worked up to, nor done. These are points that you need to write down. They are very interesting and important things to learn about so that in the future when you have a teacher here you can ask for more details. It would take too long to go into in detail at this time.

Intentions and Actions

It is possible to have a wholesome intention but an unwholesome action, an unwholesome intention but a wholesome action, both an unwholesome intention and an unwholesome action, and a wholesome intention and a wholesome action. If you can, you need to have both the intention and action be wholesome or noble. As an example of having a wholesome intention and doing an unwholesome action, when you are trying to teach someone something and they don’t learn, although your intention is to help them, your action might be to beat them or scold them. An example of an unwholesome intention, but a wholesome action would be preventing somebody from being able to accomplish something by distracting them – for example, by taking them on a picnic or sightseeing or to do something pleasant that would pass their time so they don’t accomplish what they want to. Your intention was an unwholesome, but your action was wholesome. It is easy to give examples where both the action and intention are wholesome.

Harmful and Beneficial Results

Another division of four is the following: There are actions that are superficially of benefit but of harm in the long run; those that are superficially of harm but of long-term benefit; those that are beneficial both superficially and long-term, and those that are harmful both superficially and in the long-term. If something is both superficially and long-term beneficial, you need to do it. If something is superficially harmful but long-term beneficial, that you can also do. If something is initially of benefit but harmful in the long run, it is something that is better not to do. If something is of no benefit in the short or the long run, don’t do that at all. All of you are very intelligent and sharp, so you can immediately comprehend these things.

The Four Principles of Actions

Another division of actions is fourfold: the certainty about actions; the point of increase of actions and their results; if you have not done an action then you don’t meet with its effects; and if you have done an action then it will not be in vain, there will be a result.

The certainty factor is that if you have done something constructive, the result will definitely be happiness. And if you have done something negative or destructive, the result will definitely be suffering, problems or unhappiness. For instance, when you plant rice, you don’t get peas. The increase factor is illustrated by what happens when you plant one kernel of corn: you get a very large amount of corn. From one small positive action, a great deal of happiness can follow, whereas from a slight destructive action a great deal of problems can come.

Here is an example of the certainty factor. People were constructing a stupa — a relic monument. A worker on the project had a lot of difficulty with the work, and he was always complaining. When the stupa was finished, he looked and said, “After all, it was a good thing,” and felt very happy. He used his salary to buy a special bell that he offered for the top of the stupa. At the time of the Buddha, he was reborn as the person known as Beautiful Voice. He had a lovely voice, but his body was completely repulsive, very small and deformed. His voice was so beautiful, however, that even the animals nearby would stop to listen when he chanted. Once, the local king came to visit Buddha. He heard the beautiful voice of the monk and asked to be able to meet him. The Buddha said, “You would be better not to meet him.” But the king insisted and so the Buddha took him to meet the monk. When the king saw how ugly and deformed he was, and asked why he had such a beautiful voice and such an ugly body, the Buddha explained his past life.

Here are some examples of the increase factor. A person told a monk, “Your voice is just like that of a dog!” As a result, he was himself reborn as a dog five hundred times. You have to be very careful not to call people names, or be harsh and abusive toward them, because with just a slip of the tongue you could make a very disastrous mistake.

Among the disciples of the Buddha, the one who was especially well known for his wisdom was Shariputra (Sha-ri’i bu). Many lives before that, he had been reborn as a postman. Once he spent the night in a temple that had very beautiful murals of the Buddhas. When he lit a lamp to be able to mend his shoes, he was able to see the images of all the Buddhas. As a result, he was reborn with such great awareness.

The next factor about karma is that if you have not done an action, you will not meet with the result. But, if you have committed an action, it is just a matter of time before you will meet with its result. However, if you have done something positive, anger can destroy the positive potential you have built up, and if you have done something negative, if you honestly admit that it was wrong and apply the four opponent powers, you can purify yourself of that negative potential. Aside from that, you have to experience the results of what you have done. Anger can completely destroy the ability of your positive potential to act as a root for happiness. The way that this happens is similar to when you take exposed film through an x-ray machine in an airport; it completely destroys and erases the image on the film.

Once there was a queen, Tsunmo Sangmo (bTsun-mo sNgo-bsangs-mo) who went with her lady servants on a picnic. Where they were picnicking there was a small shrub with a nest of some small pheasants. The queen and her attendants set the bush on fire, and killed all the birds for fun, but one maid servant had gone off to fetch water and was not involved. Later, at the time of the Buddha, the queen was reborn as a man who took robes and achieved the state of an arhat with various types of miraculous powers. The maidservant was born at the same time, and she also became a monk, but did not achieve arhatship. As a result of the potentials built up from their previous actions, one day, the house they were living in caught on fire. The arhat who had been the queen still had some negative potentials left over from that previous action, and was unable to use his miraculous powers to fly away. He died in the fire. This is an example of the factor that if you have built up a certain potential, that will not have been in vain, you will experience its results. The monk who had been the maidservant was able to escape from the burning house through a drain where the water was leaving the house. This is an example of how if you have not done a certain action, you do not meet with its results.

The question arises: How can an arhat still have some negative potential left over? This can be understood in terms of how you apply the various opponent forces for purifying yourself. If they are applied completely well and correctly, it is possible to purify yourself of all the negative potentials completely. But if it is not done exactly correctly, then there can still be a little bit of negative potential or impurity left.

Gaining Confidence in the Truth of the Teachings on Karma

This is a very excellent topic, karma, the laws of behavior and its results. You can read more about it in a sutra called The Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish (mDdo mdzangs-blun, Skt. Damamuko-nama-sutra). The various accounts in that text are very pleasant to read. You gain confident belief in all these things about cause and effect based on scriptural authority. It’s not something that can you prove by pure logic alone.

If you ask how we can have confident belief in the Buddha’s scriptural authority, it is based on thinking about what the Buddha said about voidness, reality. Those teachings are correct. If you think about it, you can prove everything that he said by logic. If you can gain confident belief based on logic that what the Buddha said about reality is correct, then, based on that, you can also have confident belief that what he said about cause and effect is likewise true.

If you do as the Buddha advised: develop a kind and warm heart, dedicate your heart to others and to achieving enlightenment, and you develop bodhichitta, then, in fact everything does go very well for you. If you think about what the Buddha said about voidness, and you go through all the lines of reasoning, you find that it is completely logical and correct by means of the power of logic. Based on these points, you can have confidence in the other things that the Buddha said. Otherwise, if you don’t go through this type of process, it is difficult to actually have confident belief in what the Buddha said. If you read things such as The Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish, you will think that it’s just a collection of fairy tales or fables. This whole observance of the laws of karma, the laws of behavior and its effects, is very important.

Taking Refuge – the Buddhas

This whole point of leading your life according to the laws of behavior and its effects is the main point to train in when you take refuge, in other words when you put a safe and sound direction in your life. In order to actually take refuge you need to have a source that can provide that safe direction. There are three sources of safe direction. What are they?

Student: The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Rinpoche: What is a Buddha?

Student: I don’t know.

Rinpoche: A Buddha is someone who is totally clear-minded and fully evolved. Clear-minded is the first syllable of the Tibetan word for Buddha. It means that he has purified his mind of all disturbances and disturbing attitudes. Fully evolved is the second syllable. It means that he has completely gained all good qualities and complete awareness of all things so that he is evolved to the fullest state possible.

The Advent of Buddhas in This World

In the beginning, Buddhas dedicated their hearts completely to being able to benefit all limited beings. They resolved very strongly to become totally clear-minded and fully evolved to be able to do this. This is the way they developed a dedicated heart of bodhichitta. Not only did they dedicate their hearts in this fashion, they worked over three zillion eons to build up a positive potential that would allow them to achieve this state.

In the beginning of an eon, the lifespan of humans is something like a zillion years. The literal word in Tibetan is “countless.” This does not mean it is infinite; it is finite, but is uncountable. Each hundred years, the lifespan becomes one year less, so that eventually the lifespan is ten years. Then it increases by one year every century, until the lifespan reaches eighty thousand years. Then again, it goes down to ten. It goes up and down like this eighteen times, making one intermediate eon. When it goes through a period of these phases they are called the twenty intermediate eons when the universe is abiding, or staying in a certain state. Then another period of twenty intermediate eons follows this, which is the eon of destruction, when the universe gets destroyed or collapses. This occurs, for instance, by the appearance of seven suns that burn for seven days, and burn up everything in the world. Then there is another twenty intermediate eons when the universe is empty, followed by another twenty intermediate eons when a universe starts to be formed, beginning from the wind mandala, the sphere of the ethers. That whole process is a period of eighty intermediate eons, which is equal to one great eon. If you multiply this by a zillion, you get one zillion great eons. The Buddha builds up positive potential for three of these in order to actually become totally clear-minded and fully evolved.

There are great eons of darkness and those of light, when a Buddha actually comes to the universe. The present great eon that we live in is an eon of light, called “ the fortunate eon.” In this fortunate eon, a thousand Buddhas will come as universal teachers. The first three universal teacher Buddhas came when the human lifespan was sixty thousand years, forty thousand and twenty thousand years. I am not exactly certain of these figures, I would have to check in a text. Now it is at the time when the lifespan reached a hundred that the fourth universal teacher came to this universe, namely Shakyamuni Buddha. It was at a time when the lifespan was decreasing.

When the lifespan is increasing from ten back to eighty thousand, there will be the appearance of the universal monarchs who have a wheel of authority, the chakravartin emperors. There are four different types of universal monarchs: those wielding a golden, silver, copper or iron wheel of authority. When the Buddha came, some people lived for a hundred years. Now it is very rare that people live over a hundred. The lifespan is gradually going down. It will eventually reach ten, and then the lifespan will increase again, slowly, over a long period of time. When it reaches eighty thousand, Maitreya Buddha will appear.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Body

We can recognize such beings as Shakyamuni and Maitreya as examples of totally clear-minded and fully evolved Buddhas. Buddhas have various corpuses or bodies. There is the body of deep awareness that encompasses everything (jnanadharmakaya). There are the various form bodies of a Buddha (rupakaya). They include bodies of full use (Sambhogakaya) and emanation bodies (Nirmanakaya). The bodies of deep awareness that encompass everything are something that only the Buddhas themselves can be aware of amongst themselves. Only arya bodhisattvas and above can actually see the bodies of full use. Anyone of lesser attainment cannot meet with them.

As for the emanation bodies or nirmanakayas, there is a supreme emanation body, an emanation body as an artist, and an emanation body as a person. A supreme emanation body is something that ordinary beings can see and meet with. Even though ordinary beings can see a supreme emanation body, in order to actually see one, they have to have very pure karma, very pure actions and potentials. Otherwise, ordinary people like us can’t actually see a supreme emanation body with the thirty-two major signs and the eighty exemplary features. Because a supreme emanation body has already demonstrated the manner of passing away into final release, has already demonstrated parinirvana, there are none around for us to actually see.

The supreme emanation bodies have the crown protrusion (ushnisha) on top of their heads. They have the imprint of a Dharma wheel on the palms of their hands very prominently. Their shoulders are raised like that of a lion. These days officials with uniforms have epaulettes on their shoulders, don’t they? Perhaps they are supreme emanation bodies, who knows? They have copper-colored nails, which is not something that they get from putting on nail polish. Their lips are very red, without having to put on any lipstick. The have a curl of white hair in the middle of their brow which if pulled can never be pulled all the way out; it just gets longer and longer. If you study the great texts, you will learn what all these major and minor signs are. In addition, their body is completely enveloped in a halo of light. This is a light that can outshine any other type of light, no matter how far away it might be. For instance, the gods have halos and are very radiant, but compared to a Buddha, they are like small candles next to a large phosphorescent lamp.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Speech

As for the enlightened speech of a Buddha, it has sixty special qualities. For instance, when a Buddha is speaking, the people in the front of the audience don’t hear his voice as being tremendously loud, and the people in the back don’t hear his voice as very soft. Everybody hears it at an equal volume. Likewise, if there is a large audience of people from different countries, the Buddha just speaks with one language, and everyone can understand him in his or her own language. He has no need for translators.

The Qualities of a Buddha’s Mind

As for the enlightened mind of a Buddha, there are twenty-one categories of his understanding and awareness, which is completely unassociated with any confusion, (uncontaminated wisdom). This becomes a very extensive subject. One of the categories is the thirty-seven factors leading to a purified state. There are also the eighteen qualities not shared with the lower Arhats and so on. There are twenty-one categories each with different subsections.

All these qualities, such as the major physical features of a Buddha, are the result of a tremendous amount of positive potential that has to be built up over three zillion eons. Even if a supreme emanation body of a Buddha were to come before us, since we do not have pure karma, we don’t have pure potentials, we would not be able to actually see him. As for emanation bodies as persons, this is something that we actually can see and meet. For instance, there is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is Avalokitesvara. He is the emanation body of a Buddha in the form of a personage. Even so, there were some Geshes, who, when His Holiness was seated on a throne, were unable to see him. The fact that we were actually able to see His Holiness is very fortunate.

Here is an example of an emanation body as an artist. There was a king of the heavenly musicians who felt that he was the best musician in the universe. He was very proud and arrogant. He played a lute with a thousand strings. The Buddha manifested himself as an artist, a musician, and challenged the king to a musical contest. They would remove one string at a time from their lutes to see who could continue playing. Eventually they each only had one string left. Then the Buddha removed the final string from his instrument and continued to make beautiful music. When the king removed the last string, he was unable to make any music, so his pride was lessened. This is an example of an emanation body as an artist.

The Buddha Jewel

When we speak of the Buddha refuge, you need to think of a clear evolved being as any of these bodies. In terms of our practice, it is important to recognize all the various representations of Buddhas, like these paintings and pictures here, as actually being Buddhas. When we practice, there are five actual paths of the mind. The first is called an accumulating path of mind. This has three levels: small, intermediate and great. When you actually achieve a great accumulating path of mind, you will be able to hear and receive teachings from all these various representations of the Buddhas. It is said that when we meet these various paintings and representations of the Buddha, if we do so in a proper fashion then it is of more benefit than meeting an actual Buddha. Therefore, it is important to be very careful. Now you find pictures of Buddhas and enlightened beings printed everywhere, in newspapers and so on, and if you are not careful about how you treat and regard these representations of the Buddhas, there will be difficulties.

The Dharma Jewel

The Jewel of the Dharma refers to all of the qualities of the enlightened mind of a Buddha. This is the actual Dharma refuge. When we are practicing, we need to recognize all the various scriptural texts as being the actual Jewel of the Dharma. It is important to treat the various letters and writing in which the Dharma can be expressed, in any alphabet, respectfully. Don’t wrap garbage in the newspaper. That is very disrespectful and negative. It is important to be respectful of the printed word.

Likewise, when you have loose-leaf Dharma texts, if there is a great wind, and you have to prevent the pages from being blown away, then it is permitted to put a rosary on top of the pages. But otherwise don’t put anything on top of the books. Likewise, when you turn the pages, don’t stick your fingers in your mouth to wet them. Rather, if you have to wet your fingers to turn the pages, put a small bowl of clean water to the side and dip your fingers in that. It is important to put covers on the books so they don’t touch bare surfaces. Likewise, don’t step on top of or over your books. It’s all right to put books above or on top of statues on a shelf, but don’t put statues on top of or above books.

The Sangha Jewel

The Jewel of the Intent Community (Sangha) is any highly realized being or arya, a person who has had nonconceptual cognition of voidness or reality. In general, four fully ordained monks constitute Sangha. Only one, two, or three monks do not. When we are practicing, we need to recognize anyone who is wearing the robes of the Buddhist order as being the actual Sangha.

The Jewel of the Buddha is the one who actually gives the teachings, and indicates the safe direction to take in life. The Jewel of the Dharma is the actual source of safe direction, it is the actual refuge; when you put all these spiritual measures into practice, it actually does provide a safe and sound direction in life. The Jewel of the Sangha are people who help you and are companions in leading a life with a sound direction. If I give an account, it will make it easier to understand

Once there was a child of the gods named Stiramati (Blo-gros brtan-pa). He was a god in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods. Everything is extremely beautiful there. Everything is made of precious gems. There is no dirt or any impurity. It is spotless. This god led a perfectly happy life and never had any suffering or problems. When he was close to dying, the flower garlands that he wore faded and died, and his body started to give off a very offensive odor. All his god friends would no longer come near him. Among his friends, only those who were really very stable and steady would have anything to do with him. They would just stand at a distance and look at him. This god had the ability to see that all the positive potentials that he had built up were now depleted, and that now, as a result of the negative potential that he had left, he would be reborn in one of the worse states of rebirth. He saw that not only would he fall to one of the really worse states of rebirth, but also after that he would be reborn as a pig. At this thought, he had the worst mental suffering that you can imagine. There is no greater mental pain than that experienced by such a god.

He went to the king of the gods, Indra (brGya-byin), and begged him to help, to give some sort of method by which he could escape this fate. Indra said, “I am sorry; I don’t know any way to help you avoid this. But I will take you to see the Buddha. He has the best methods.” He went to the Buddha and the Buddha gave him the instructions of the goddess or personal deity called Ushnisha Vijaya (rNam-rgyal-ma). She is one of the three long life deities. She has a body white in color with three faces and eight arms. He did all the practices. When he died, not only did he not fall to any of these worse states of rebirth, but also he was reborn in even a higher heaven than he had been in before, known as Tushita (dGa’-ldan, Ganden), the Heaven of Pleasure. Indra was unable to see him because he can only see the heavens at his level or below. When he asked Buddha where this god had been reborn, Buddha told him that he was reborn in Tushita Heaven.

By this example, we can see that the Buddha is the teacher, the one who actually showed the safe direction to take. The actual thing that provided the safe direction was the practice that this god did, that of Ushnisha Vijaya. This is the example of the Dharma Jewel. The one who helped him find and take this direction in life was the king of the gods, Indra. So he is an example of the Sangha Jewel.

Concluding Advice

If you want to meditate on something, to build up a good habit of mind, you need to visualize His Holiness the Dalai Lama before you, representing all the Buddhas, and make many requests to him for inspiration. Say OM MANI PEME HUNG, and imagine lights and so forth coming from him, and purifying you of your negative potentials.

As for very practical points of practice that you need to try to adopt in your daily behavior, the main ones are that when you wake up in the morning, you need to set a very strong positive intention: “Today I am going to be a positive and constructive person and I am going to try to do things to benefit others.” At the end of the day, you need to think of all the positive things that you have done and then dedicate the potential that was built up for the benefit of everyone, and for your achieving a state of total clear-mindedness and full evolvement to be able to benefit everyone. This whole subject matter of taking refuge is very important. Tomorrow I will tell you more about it.

Do you have any questions about what I said today?

Student: What is the Dharmakaya?

Rinpoche: The Dharmakaya is the omniscient mind of a Buddha that encompassing everything. As was explained, there are twenty-one categories of special types of deep awareness unassociated with any confusion. This would include the ten forces, the four states of freedom from fear and so on. If we went into detail about all of these, it would take a great deal of time. It is very extensive. But as examples, the ten powers that a Buddha has, are for instance, knowing the appropriate and inappropriate consequences of various actions, knowing the results that will follow from all actions, knowing the spiritual paths that will lead everyone to their goals and so on.

As for the four things that a Buddha has no fear about: he has no fear about stating that he has abandoned all faults, about saying that he has attained all positive qualities that there are to be attained, etc. It does not matter how large an audience a Buddha has in front of him. He is able to say with no fear, with total confidence, that he knows everything. One brahmin named Kapila (Ser-skya) went to all the surrounding villages, and took one grain of rice from each, making a special note on each of them. He brought a huge basket of these grains of rice in front of the Buddha and said to the Buddha, “You know everything. Do you know where these grains of rice come from?” The Buddha said, “Yes.” The Buddha told him where each grain came from as it was held up, until they had gone through the entire basket of rice.

In the days of the Buddha, there were enormous trees. Again, a brahmin wanted to test the Buddha, so he went to one of the trees and counted all the leaves. It took him a couple of months. Then he went to the Buddha and said, “You are so smart. You know everything. How many leaves does this tree have?” The Buddha was immediately able to give him the exact number.

It is very difficult for you to be able to read my mind, and, likewise it is difficult for me to be able to read your mind. But it is impossible to know the mind of a Buddha, and what that is like. Even the bodhisattvas who have a tenth-level mind, the highest of the ten stages, cannot know what the mind of a Buddha is like. If you want to really study all the different qualities and aspects of the jnanadharmakaya, the body of deep awareness of a Buddha that encompasses everything, you need to study one of the texts by Maitreya called a Filigree of Realizations (mNgon-rtogs rgyan, Skt. Abhisamaya-alamkara). The eighth chapter covers this subject matter in great detail. If you really don’t know all the good qualities of a Buddha, it is difficult to have real confident belief in a Buddha. An account comes to mind from Tibet.

In Tibet, the Ganden Throne-holder is a very high position. The one who holds that throne is considered a very precious lama. He has a golden-colored umbrella over him wherever he goes. I asked Rinpoche if he really had this umbrella wherever he went, and Rinpoche said I need not be such an idiot, of course he did not have it when he went to the toilet. One day, an old woman was visiting Ganden Monastery, when the Ganden Throne-holder walked by in procession. A monk standing next to her said, “Look, there’s the Ganden Throne-holder.” Thinking that the Ganden Throne-holder was the umbrella, she pressed her palms together respectfully and said, “I take refuge in the Ganden Throne-holder.” After the procession, she turned to the monk and said, “ Wasn’t that a lovely old monk walking underneath the Ganden Throne-holder?”

So, we need to be able to recognize for sure what a Buddha actually is. Let’s end here for today.

[The recordings of the following days of the discourse are missing.]

 

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