These teachings from Padmasambhava were revealed as a terma treasure by Nyang Ral Nyima Ozer, 1124-1192.
Master Padma said: “You must make sure your Dharma practice becomes the real Dharma. You must make sure your Dharma becomes the real path. You must make sure your path can clarify confusion. You must make sure your confusion dawns as wisdom.”
“What does that mean?” the lady Yeshe Tsogyal asked.
When you have understanding free from accepting and rejecting after knowing how to condense all the teachings into a single vehicle, then your Dharma practice becomes the real Dharma.
When in any practice you do you possess refuge and bodhichitta, and have unified the stages of development and completion, and means and knowledge, then your Dharma becomes the real path.
When you combine the path with the view, meditation, action and fruition, then your path clarifies confusion.
When you exert yourself in practice having fully resolved the view and meditation, then your confusion can dawn as wisdom.
In any case, no matter what practice you do, failing to unify development and completion, view and conduct, and means and knowledge, will be like trying to walk on just one leg.”
Since these four instructions were also the main teaching around which my guru Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche magically spun all his teachings, I will try to explain them a little here on this day, which is close to his anniversary.
Tulku Urgyen usually began with chanting the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, mentioning that both Padmasambhava and Longchenpa used the exact same structure for outlining and summarizing the entire path, from where one is at present until true and complete enlightenment:
Bless us so our minds may turn towards the Dharma.
Bless us so our Dharma may become the path.
Bless us so our path may clear away confusion.
Bless us so confusion dawns as wakefulness.
These four sentences, phrased as a prayer, let us connect with the meaning of the four mind-changings, ngondro, sadhanapractice, as well as Mahamudra and Dzogchen. There is no high or low; whatever helps us to overcome a hindrance and move forward is a true teachings.
“When you have understanding free from accepting and rejecting, after knowing how to condense all the teachings into a single vehicle, then your Dharma practice becomes the real Dharma.” The single vehicle is the understanding that all teachings are personal advice on how to soften rigid mind-habits, letting go of pointless aims, and then settling into a gentle presence that is both calm and kind. Our attention simply remains for a while in this way, at ease in itself with nothing that needs to be held or cast away. This aware steadiness is often called shamatha, being calm, and it is the basis for all higher or deeper states of authentic insight. This present state of mind is now the real Dharma in the sense that negative emotions are gone, for a while, worries have evaporated, the pressure of stress is relieved, and the inner smile of ease begins to show on your face. This way of being is thoroughly good and wholesome and from it all noble qualities can begin to grow forth. This is the most eminent form of mindfulness.
“When in any practice you do you possess refuge and bodhichitta, and have unified the stages of development and completion, and means and knowledge, then your Dharma becomes the real path.” In addition to training in meditation as a mindful presence that is both calm and gentle, we can now enter the path of the buddhas by taking refuge in the state of complete realization, in the methods and insights that reveal it, and in fellow meditators who are already stable. These are known as Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
As we mature, the gentle calm deepens into compassion and, combined with our will to free everyone, becomes the attitude of a bodhisattva, the most beautiful attitude possible: the heroic will-power to take responsibility for each and every sentient beings and assist in their freedom and enlightenment.
Meditation practice is now a thousand times more effective than simply sitting. Rather than aiming at mental calm and personal peace, each moment turns into a tremendous boost towards enlightenment and total freedom. We alternate between focusing our will in the most noble way and letting go into space-like equanimity, without following thoughts about past, present and future This way of alternating, again and again, is a very pragmatic way of combining methods with insight, known as uniting means and knowledge. By thinking of someone in a calm, kind or respectful way and alternating that with letting go into non-doing, again and again, we also combine the two aspects known as development and completion.
“When you combine the path with the view, meditation, action and fruition, then your path clarifies confusion.” Now the time has come to connect with more than a general Dharma teacher. To go deeper in an authentic way, an experienced vajra master is necessary to introduce us to the perspective of what we are, basically. We are a mind in a human body with a voice and tremendous potential and abilities. We are introduced to authentic being through an empowerment, without the distorted beliefs of habit-thought. We are taught how to train in such an authentic way of being, also known as sadhana practice, and to make use of that during various activities. This deep way of meditation training matures into wonderful and liberating results, in dreams and in the waking state, and can even be felt by other people.
“When you exert yourself in practice having fully resolved the view and meditation, then your confusion can dawn as wisdom.” The distorted ways of thinking begin to melt away, giving room to a fresh and open state of mind that is similar to a cloudless sky. We have now become more clear about how to sustain that freshness and openness in all types of situations. At some point our practice is no longer an imitation of equanimity, but becomes self-sustaining and totally free, while noble qualities manifest like a the effortless flow of a large river. That is known as confusion having dawned as wisdom.
Again, it is so precious to unify conceptual practice with a thought-free gentle presence. First by alternating, then by combining, and finally while knowing that all thoughts are the play of the single mind.
In True Books by Erik Pema Kunsang,
Padmasambhava, the great Indian master who is regarded as a second Buddha, went to Tibet where he established the teachings of Vajrayana. The book Dakini Teachings contains his replies to questions from Yeshe Tsogyal, his foremost and female disciple in Tibet. She wrote down many of their conversations and preserved them for future generations. While translating these replies, I was often moved to tears from being saturated by his blessings and inspiration. I have always loved Padmasambhava; he is my transcendental hero. In this book you can actually “listen in” on Padmasambhava’s Dharma talk. The translation may not be perfect in scholarship and literary eloquence, but I believe that the link between his blessings and the reader’s openness and sincerity will make up for these shortcomings. Reading Dakini Teachings will then be close to being in his presence. May these teachings touch your heart and be a continual source of inspiration.
Erik Pema Kunsang, Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and Levekunst art of life. Other Levekunst articles by the same author. Erik’s website & retreats.