Dagyab Rinpoche: Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching

Emptiness and dependent arising eliminate all faults.

What is the Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching?

A Doorway to a Precise Understanding in Forty Verses

by Loden Sherab Dagyab Rinpoche 2013

1. The Buddha is omniscient and teaches (accordingly).

That makes him unexcelled as Sage and Teacher.

To the Buddha, who sees dependent origination

And has given these teachings, I bow.

2. This tremendous leader of beings

Made clear the quintessential way of the Dharma,

Such as relativity and dependent origination –

As peerless refuge, I commend him a hundred times!

The essence of the Buddha’s intended meaning.

3. Through the dependent relationship between cause and effect,

And dependent designation, through these two modes,

All aspects of samsara and nirvana arise.

This is the discerning teaching he gave.

4. Causes and conditions can produce

Only corresponding results.

Without any dogma and without pressurizing others

He gave this freely accessible teaching.

This is how he taught.

5. By relying on the coordination

Of the two realities (1) as basis,

And the corresponding skillful means and wisdom as the path,

The fruitional two bodies (2) are attained. This is how he taught.

6. One who knows the (truth of) suffering

And abandons its cause, finds its true cessation.

In order to attain this, one travels the path.

These four truths are the quintessence of the teaching.

This is how he taught.

7. Since the taints are transient

They cannot produce everlasting suffering.

Even though there is no sin and punishment,

We have to experience the ripening of our karma.

This is how he taught.

One must liberate oneself

8. The result of the path is enlightenment.

It is not given to us by anyone else,

And no-one can claim it as a possession.

One must be one’s own protector.

This is how he taught.

9. One whose mind is patient, content,

Mindful, and helpful to others

Will become an ‘outstanding person’.

This is the foundation to protect ourselves.

This is how he taught.

10. By refraining from pride, envy,

Abuse and slander, etc.

One will always guard one’s sense perceptions.

Dharma is to watch one’s mind.

This is how he taught.

11. One who has not tamed their own mind

Has no chance to tame another’s mind.

We have to build up our own courage.

There is nothing else we can rely on.

This is how he taught.

How we can liberate ourselves:

and what is to be adopted and what discarded in Dharma (practice)

12. Since pursuing one’s own happiness is a mass of problems,

And all happiness comes from (seeking) others’ happiness,

By training oneself in love, compassion and constructive behavior,

One becomes an excellent person.

This is how he taught.

13. The view of dependent arising
And nonviolent action, these two aspects,

Form the basis of Buddhadharma.

One who has gained inner certainty about that

Has understood the intention of the Buddha.

This is how he taught.

14. First by understanding dependent arising,

And based on that, the four seals of the Dharma,

And then accepting the Three Jewels as refuge,

One becomes a Buddhist. This is how he taught.

15. Emptiness and dependent arising

Eliminate all faults.

Therefore this is the refuge in the authentic teaching.

Through this the Buddha (as a teacher) and the Sangha (as an example)

Also become a refuge for those seeking liberation.

This is how he taught.

16. Without discernment,
With blind faith just bowing, offering,

Reciting, praying, supplicating, and seeking blessings –

This is not the essential Dharma.

This is how he taught.

17. Out of love for one’s own religion, one should not try

To convert others by using power and material support.

Instead, one should appreciate others’ religions

And learn from them.

This is how he taught.

18. In order for many kinds of beings to live well together,

The religious traditions need to maintain a harmonious relationship.

They are supposed to maintain a pure view and learn from each other.

Religious people should give up everything harmful.

This is how he taught.

The Buddha’s teachings are always in tune with the way things are.

19. Although the Buddha’s teachings on the profound and vast Dharma

Were given like refined gold,

Still it is not just to be revered,

But rather to be investigated first and then put into practice.

This is how he taught.

20. In order to hear the Dharma,

you are not supposed to follow the external form of the teacher,

And consider everything they do as good.

One should abandon this illusory dance,

And rely only on authoritative (teachers).

This is how he taught.

21. Not to follow blind faith

But to acknowledge the reality of things as they are,

And make reason principal over scripture,

Is the way to enter the Buddhadharma.

This is how he taught.

22. When modern scientists investigate how

In the Buddhist teachings by utilizing an inner science

A system of mind is presented,

It should be praised as analysis of the teachings.

This is how he taught.

23. (Nevertheless) modern methods

orientate themselves towards external matter.

Therefore, their findings are preliminary and cannot refute

What is found in the most profound ancient scriptures

Of scholars and realized beings of India and Tibet.

This is how he taught.

24. (Investigating) the Buddha’s great scriptures

One should discern:

(1) Laws of nature (found) by means of (Buddhist) sciences;

(2) Systems of views and approaches that are connected to these laws;

(3) Practice of the inner Dharma.

This is how he taught.

What can be of benefit both to Buddhists and non-Buddhists

25. Those following the view and approach of (Buddhist) science

Investigate the objects of knowledge in great detail,

But they are not particularly concerned with spiritual practice.

Therefore all people without exception can make an effort in it.

This is how he taught.

26. Since the scriptures of (the ancient monastic university of) Nalanda

Are of benefit even for those without any religion,

Monks and nuns, lay persons, male and female,

Old and young, should all learn from them.

This is how he taught.

27. Those who think, out of personal confusion,

That they will be liberated although poor in learning,

Are claiming to belong to a (karmically) special group of persons;

Such arrogance gives rise to doubts.

This is how he taught.

28. By listening, reflecting and meditating in the correct order

On the word of the Buddha and its commentaries,

One learns and thereby gains liberation.

The necessity to proceed in this way is praised as the teaching.

This is how he taught.

It is necessary to align one’s behavior with the intention of the Buddha

29. Since buddhas and beings

Are equally helpful in attaining ‘the phenomena of buddhahood’,

Why be respectful (only) to the Buddhas

And not to beings? This is how he taught.

30. According to this teaching it is wrong,

When showing our respect to others,

To see males as superior to females and discriminate

By caste and origin. This is how he taught.

31. In Mahayana teaching ordained and lay persons, male and female,

Are the same in being able

To become enlightened, and in the Mantrayana precepts

One must not despise women, instead they are objects of respect.

This is how he taught.

32. What is considered to be religious behavior

Is often influenced by traditional customs.

This is to ignore the root and seek after the branches;

It is not the way to preserve the teaching.

This is how he taught.

33. There are no records whatsoever

that the seventeen panditas and siddhas (3) (of Nalanda) –

Used beating drums, sounding cymbals and wrathful offerings

To invoke gods and demons.

We should preserve the teachings flawlessly.

This is how he taught.

34. While expert scholars never end

Their explanations of provisional and definite meanings,

One should dwell free from concepts

In that protective tent that serves us as a refuge.

This is how he taught.

The need for artful skill in achieving both (self and others’) aims

35. In order to learn how the Buddha used skillful means

Without being partial, one should focus on

The six perfections (4) and the four ways to gather (students) (5)

According to the inclinations of (others).

This is how he taught.

36. One who, rather than using praise and encouragement

To generate a faithful and virtuous attitude, instead creates fear in others,

Should be seen as someone who teaches violence as religion.

So be careful.

This is how he taught.

37. It is best to achieve the two aims (for self and others)

By giving up all forms of coercion, now and in the long-term,

And by relying on the four immeasurables (6)

(7) And the four kinds of virtuous trainings (8).

This is how he taught.

38. One who wishes to benefit migrant beings

And strive extensively for the benefit of others,

Needs to know their background, and also what is harmful and what is beneficial for them.

It is important that one’s behavior is in accordance with the world.

This is how he taught.

Summary and a verse stemming from my faith

39. By applying intense continual effort

Combining the two accumulations, one will progress on the stages and paths.

One has (to practice) the Dharma sincerely

And continuously over the days, months and years.

This is how he taught.

40. From having filled my heart’s vessel

With the nectar of these infallible instructions,

With my faith gained through understanding,

Hundredfold blossoms opened in the lotus garden of my mind.


This was a message, called ‘What is the Essence of the Buddha’s Teaching?
A Doorway to a Precise Understanding in Forty Verses’

It is most valuable to search for the actual meaning of the Buddha’s teaching relying only on genuine reasoning. However, because of the influence of the customs of our own and foreign countries, of superstition, culture, tradition etc. which have been continually maintained, and also because additions have been made on many occasions by people who were just seeking their own advantage, for a long time different forms of leaves have obscured the actual fruit.

Therefore, having been stimulated by the questions of many intelligent people and in order to remind myself of the essence of the Dharma and keep it vivid for myself, I collected in verses what stems solely from the scriptures and treatises of India and Tibet and from the speech of authoritative persons.
May all virtue contained in this writing not lead to (mistaking) the way of the Victor’s Dharma for the sake of increasing bondage to the eight mundane concerns8 such as political status, wealth, power, and fame, but may we focus on the pure intention of the Sage.

May it serve as cause for connecting self and other, all migrant beings, to the mass of goodness leading to permanent peace and happiness!

These verses were composed by Dagyab Loden Sherab on December 10, 2013.

Draft translation by Prof. Robert Thurman. Editing of the English translation by comparing it to the German translation by Christian Dräger. Final editing by Vessantara.

(1) Conventional reality and ultimate reality.

(2) Buddha’s form and Buddha’s mind.
(3) Great scholars and realized beings.
(4) Practice of generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration, wisdom.

(5) Generosity, pleasant and kind speech, giving good advice, acting accordingly ourselves.
(6) Practice of love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

(7) Not to retaliate when (1) verbally abused or criticized, (2) made the target of others’ anger, (3) beaten, or (4) humiliated.

(8) Four sets of two opposite experiences which we usually would either seek or avoid: (1-2) pleasure and pain, (3-4) gain and loss, (5-6) praise and blame, (7-8) fame and disgrace

© 2013 by H. E. Dagyab Kyabgön Rinpoche English edition 2018 Tibet House Germany Georg-Voigt-Str. 4 60325 Frankfurt Germany  www.tibethaus.com ISBN: 978-3-95702-019-2